Inside Moves

The Sony scorecard: Pascal up, Calley stays

Sony Pictures Entertainment will try to end some of the rumors swirling around it early next week by confirming one of them:

The studio is expected to announce that Amy Pascal is being promoted to chairwoman of Columbia Pictures.

Repeat: Columbia Pictures. Not to be confused with the position SPE chairman and CEO John Calley holds. He himself has more than enough rumors floating around about him. What’s still unclear is if Pascal’s promotion will affect any of the decision-making machinery at SPE.

More than likely, Pascal’s new Columbia Pictures stripes were bestowed more as a commendation for hard work and won’t necessarily mean an actual expansion of purview or responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Lucy Fisher, Columbia Pictures’ vice chairman-without-a-chairman-to-report-to had been rumored for weeks to be stepping down.

On Dec. 9, she confirmed her departure, announcing her intention to leave at year’s end and join husband and Sony-based producer Doug Wick’s company, Red Wagon Prods., as a producer herself.

As for all the other wearying rumors, Calley stepped up last week to clear the air on several points.

  • For the last time, he’s not leaving, the SPE chairman insisted. Not now; not in February. Scenarios ranging from Calley joining longtime pal Sydney Pollack on the lot, to new TV topper Mel Harris taking over both Calley and recently departed co-prexy and chief operating officer Bob Wynne’s posts are also false, Calley said.

    “If they’re firing me, I don’t know about it. But I have two years left on my contract, and Sony is telling me how happy they are that I’m staying,” said Calley.

  • Calley also quashed industry speculation that marketing topper Bob Levin would take the fall for pics like “Random Hearts” and “Jacob the Liar.” Said Calley: “It’s a collaborative process, but if you want to blame someone, blame me. I hold the greenlight. We had bad luck. And we would die if Bob Levin even contemplated leaving.”

  • Finally, if you’re thinking of starting any rumors as to who is replacing Fisher, don’t bother. No one is, said Calley, who called the previous structure at Columbia Pictures “somewhat bizarre, anyway.”

Columbia Pictures Gareth Wigan, Calley said, despite being a vice chairman, will report to Pascal on some matters, like domestic creative projects, but to Calley on others, like indigenous film production abroad.

— Claude Brodesser

Valenti denies he’s planning exit

WASHINGTON — Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America and dean of Washington’s lobbying corps, says he has “zero plans” to retire despite an upcoming New Yorker article which quotes him pondering a successor.

Valenti, 78, has headed the MPAA for more than 30 years and rumors often circulate about his possible retirement. The New Yorker article suggests that President Clinton may be in the running for the job, but other sources told Variety that more likely candidates are Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn) and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.

Because of President Clinton’s close ties to Hollywood there is often speculation that he will join the entertainment industry after he leaves the White House. One rumor that surfaces with some regularity is that he plans to join DreamWorks after the next election.

The MPAA insisted that succession at the MPAA is not even on the agenda at the trade group. “It’s the same old game, trying to figure out who gets Washington’s dream job,” said MPAA spokesman Rich Taylor.

Valenti has shown no signs of slowing down, keeping up a merciless schedule that includes commuting several times a month between Washington and Los Angeles along with frequent trips to Europe and Asia.

Valenti joined the MPAA after a stint in the Johnson White House where he served as a presidential aide. Among the hallmarks of his tenure is the creation of the movie industry content code. The now familiar “G” through “R” rating system has come under attack recently by public interest advocates and even President Clinton. The Federal Trade Commission is looking in to allegations that the studios are marketing movies labeled as adult fare to underage audiences.

— Christopher Stern

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