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Sony renews contract with Lynton

CEO stays with studio for five more years

Sony Pictures Entertainment has reupped chairman-CEO Michael Lynton’s contract for five years.

Lynton’s pact was not set to expire until spring 2008, but Sony Corp. chairman-CEO Howard Stringer made it a priority to keep Lynton and fellow studio topper Amy Pascal — one of Hollywood’s most seasoned and complementary teams — together through the next four years.

Co-chair Pascal’s contract runs through 2011.

Lynton’s trademark diplomacy is considered a valuable asset for Sony, whose sprawling entertainment properties encompass film production and distribution, home entertainment acquisition and distribution and digital content creation.

Lynton’s run at Sony, which began in January 2004, has been mostly charmed, with the exception of dismal box office performance in 2005, when Columbia Pictures launched films such as “Stealth” and “Bewitched.” But under Lynton and Pascal’s leadership, the Culver City studio bounced back the following year, when Sony Pictures broke the all-time motion picture industry record by taking in more than $1.7 billion at the domestic box office and launching a record 13 No. 1 films. Worldwide, SPE also enjoyed its best year ever in 2006, with more than $3.3 billion in box office receipts.

“Together, he and Amy have become a forceful and dynamic team, guiding the studio to even greater heights than I could have hoped,” Stringer added. “I am delighted that they will both continue on in their roles for years to come.”

Buoyed by 2007’s top performer, “Spider-Man 3,” the studio crossed the $1 billion domestic box office mark for the sixth year in a row.

Perhaps Lynton’s greatest contribution at the studio has been to expand Sony’s global presence with the creation of an international film production group and the launch of new TV channels in countries worldwide.

Lynton said he wants to “keep expanding our focus” in this area in coming years.

The Wall Street banker-turned-Disney executive has also overseen the studio’s entry into the digital distribution of content, its backing of Blu-ray technology and the acquisition of Crackle, an online streaming entertainment network.

“I think we have wonderful people here in all parts of the company. Knock on wood, it will all continue,” Lynton said.

Sony hits under Lynton’s reign include such films as “The Da Vinci Code,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Casino Royale,” “Superbad,” “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Spider-Man 3”; TV series like FX’s “Rescue Me”; and the Emmy-winning AMC miniseries “Broken Trail.”