Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman said the studio has emerged stronger from the devastating cyberattack that nearly brought it to its knees last winter.
“We have more than survived, we have thrived,” Rothman told theater owners at CinemaCon, the annual exhibition trade show unfolding this week in Las Vegas.
He added that the studio was “unbroken, unbowed and pushing on to new heights.”
The newly minted studio head also alluded to the tensions that emerged after Sony opted to release “The Interview” on-demand and digitally after briefly pulling it from theaters. At the time, Sony was not only dealing with breach of its cybersystem by North Korea, it was also grappling with terrorist threats against exhibitors who opted to screen the film.
Major chains refused to show the film after Sony backtracked and said it would screen it, and some members of the exhibition community faulted the studio for making it seem like they had pushed for the cancellation.
“Thank you for understanding,” Rothman said, referencing what he euphemistically termed, “some difficult circumstances.”
CinemaCon marked Rothman’s first major public appearance since he took over the top studio job from Amy Pascal in February. Pascal’s emails were leaked as part of the hack, embarrassing the former studio head by exposing her confidential thoughts about A-list talent, as well as some racially charged jokes about President Barack Obama.
In addition to disrupting the release of “The Interview,” the hacking shut down Sony’s computer systems and exposed the personal information and social security numbers of thousands of employees.
“We’re not retrenching and we’re not retreating,” said Rothman. “Because we believe. So please, believe along with us.”
Rothman’s remarks came as Sony unveiled its slate of upcoming films such as the gaming comedy “Pixels,” the Will Smith sports drama “Concussion” and the Cameron Crowe romantic comedy “Aloha.” Many of these pictures were greenlit and produced under Pascal, but Rothman hinted at his own vision for Sony.
“I believe in big-ass movies for big, worldwide audiences,” he said. “I also believe in rich, diverse slates with films appealing to a wide range of audiences.”
It appears that strategy will mix the kind of mid-budget adult dramas that Rothman backed while head of Sony’s TriStar division with films pitched at burgeoning foreign markets, such as an animated “Spider-Man” film from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors of “The Lego Movie.”
Another key component of that mission is Sanford Panitch, a former Fox executive that Rothman tapped to head up international operations for Sony. Panitch could be glimpsed networking with theater owners during a cocktail party prior to Sony’s presentation.
Sony’s brass was clearly interested in conveying that a new era was dawning for the studio, but it couldn’t help poking a little fun at the recent past.
As part of the show, the studio screened footage from “Xmas,” a comedy about a hard-partying crew of Christmas Eve revelers anchored by Seth Rogen and produced by Evan Goldberg.
A title card introducing the preview read: “From the guys who almost brought you ‘The Interview.'”
Comedy is tragedy plus time.
Dave McNary contributed to this report.