Veteran publicist Fritz Friedman is leaving Sony Pictures at the end of summer, the studio confirmed Monday, after more than 34 years of leading publicity efforts for home entertainment and, more recently, acquisitions.
Friedman will focus on other endeavors, including serving as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, according to people familiar with the situation.
Friedman also was recently appointed by California Gov. Jerry Brown to a three-year term on the Cal Humanities Board, which is charged with promoting the humanities in California to help create “a state of open mind.”
According to Sony Pictures company spokesman, “Fritz Friedman, who for more than 34 years has driven Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s publicity and corporate communications campaigns, has chosen to step down as SVP of Worldwide Publicity, effective August 31, 2014. Fritz made countless contributions to SPHE and SPE by crafting the publicity campaigns for virtually all of SPHE’s titles and launching countless home entertainment technologies. The corporation thanks Fritz for his many contributions and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.”
Friedman was senior vice president of worldwide publicity for two divisions at Sony: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition. In January, Friedman joined the Sony Pictures Entertainment corporate communications staff as a senior VP.
Friedman joined what was then Columbia Pictures in 1980 as marketing manager and subsequently oversaw the nascent home video division’s publicity efforts as VP since 1989 and SVP since 2004. He worked on some of the division’s most successful campaigns, from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the “Spider-Man” and “Men in Black” franchises to such high-profile TV releases as “Seinfeld” and “Breaking Bad.” He also helped craft and execute public relations strategy for the launch of DVD, Blu-ray disc, electronic sellthrough and UltraViolet.
A graduate of Vassar College, where he was an Asian studies major, Friedman received his master’s degree in communications from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
Friedman is the latest high-profile executive to leave Sony Pictures in the wake of a streamlining under SPE chairman Michael Lynton. All of Sony’s divisions are being scrutinized as the studio looks to cut $250 million, an effort aided by Bain & Co., which the studio hired in November. Co-chairman Amy Pascal has announced that she was cutting her film slate from 23 to 18 films per year.
On the home entertainment side, division president David Bishop and Matt Brown, executive VP of worldwide commercial, departed in March when their contracts were not renewed. In January, the company laid off three dozen employees and announced it was closing its Sony Pictures Technologies unit.