Hirsch takes a seat at Sony Family table

Exec to serve as prexy of new division

Sony Pictures Entertainment has formalized the name of its newest business unit, calling it Sony Pictures Family Entertainment Group, while naming Gary Hirsch senior VP and general manager.

Hirsch, who reports to the new division prexy, Sander Schwartz, will oversee new business development as well as day-to-day operations including business affairs, human resources, studio operations, production and marketing. In addition, Hirsch will be involved in all aspects of strategic and corporate planning for the continued growth of the division.

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity to be part of a growing venture,” Hirsch told Daily Variety. “I have the chance to help create and direct the business, to work with Sander in deciding what directions we take.”

Said Schwartz of his first key hire: “We are in the process of building a formidable team at SPFE. Gary fulfills that requirement as a consummate business affairs and production executive with an impressive track record.”

Hirsch said the unit will focus on developing brands and properties.

“We plan to create proprietary properties that can be used across the Sony spectrum — properties that have potential for animated and live-action series, direct-to-video, and ancillary market possibilities.”

Hirsch comes to Sony’s SPFE from Columbia Pictures, where he served as senior VP of business affairs since 1992. He joined TriStar Pictures in 1987 as director of business affairs, and was promoted to VP two years later. He served as biz affairs exec on such films as “Sleepless in Seattle,” “As Good as It Gets,” “Stepmom,” “Godzilla,” “Look Who’s Talking” and “Madeline.”

SPFE, established last February and led by Schwartz, produces animation and live-action properties for TV and theatrical release. With an emphasis on family programming, the division produces “Godzilla: The Series,” “Men in Black: The Series” (for Kids’ WB), “Jumanji” and “Extreme Ghostbusters” (on Bohbot Kids Network).

Among SPFE’s fall releases are “Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles,” a 40-episode, 3-D CGI animated action/adventure series based on Robert Heinlein’s novel.

In addition to animated and live-action television programming, SPFE hopes to produce two mid-to-low-budgeted family pictures a year, as well as movies that will go straight to video.

Hirsch says Schwartz intends to keep a “lean division,” adding personnel where necessary. But at least two key new hires are expected in the coming weeks.

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