Minghella to head up animation production

Bob Osher has been named president of the digital production division of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Yair Landau ankled the post last week, and Osher’s appointment helps quell concerns that the division — formerly known as Sony Pictures Digital and consisting of Sony Pictures Animation, visual f/x shop Sony Pictures Imageworks and myriad mobile and online operations — would be dismantled. The studio raised eyebrows recently when it announced that Sony Online Entertainment, a promising unit of Sony Pictures Digital, will now be part of Sony Computer Entertainment.

As part of the restructuring, the studio has also tapped Hannah Minghella president of production at Sony Pictures Animation. Sandra Rabins, who had been in charge of SPA as senior executive VP, will segue to producing and will continue to collaborate with SPA in that role.

Imageworks, which had been up for sale, is now off the market, Osher said. Headed by Tim Sarnoff, Imageworks has become one of the leading vfx companies in the industry and has created the effects for such films as “Beowulf,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Superman Returns.”

“Letting Hannah and I come over here signals … how important this division is and what a commitment (the studio) is making to it,” Osher said.

Osher joined Sony Pictures in 2004, and has been chief operating officer of the Columbia Pictures Motion Picture Group, overseeing operations, business affairs and production-related film financing. The Miramax alum, who is credited with spearheading Sony’s slate-financing deals with Relativity Media, will continue to oversee his current areas of responsibility within the motion picture group.

Minghella and Sarnoff will report to Osher.

“Staying ahead of the vast technological changes occurring in our industry has been a priority for Sony Pictures, and I know Bob will continue to make our fantastic visual effects and animation businesses grow,” Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton said.

Minghella will be entrusted with ramping up the studio’s somewhat disappointing animation efforts. Since its formation in 2002, SPA has produced two films: “Surf’s Up” and “Open Season,” which spawned an upcoming direct-to-video sequel. Although “Surf’s Up” nabbed an Academy Award nomination, it failed to find traction at the box office.

“Hannah is one of the most intelligent and creative people I’ve worked with, and I know from firsthand experience how capable she is in dealing with a wide range of some of the most complex issues we confront in this business,” co-chairman Amy Pascal said.

Osher joined Sony after a six-year stint as co-president of production at Miramax Films. He previously was co-founder and executive VP of the Turner Pictures Group, which included co-running Turner Feature Animation.

Minghella will segue to SPA from her position as director of creative affairs for Pascal, a position she has held since 2005. Before Sony, she spent four years at Miramax and was brought to the Culver City lot on the recommendation of Osher.

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