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Sony Pictures’ Jeff Blake Leaving Marketing-Distribution Top Slot

Jeff Blake is leaving his post as chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures, a position he’s held since 2005.

Blake, who has been at the studio for 22 years, will exit Aug. 1. Sony did not immediately indicate if Blake’s slot will be filled.

Blake joined Sony as president of Sony Pictures Releasing in 1992 and became vice chairman in 2002.  He began working in 1974 at Paramount in distribution.

Speculation has been growing in recent months that Blake, who’s well-known and well-liked within the business, would depart.

The shift comes with Sony Pictures Entertainment under scrutiny following a mixed performance in 2013 and so far in 2014.

The studio saw strong performances from “22 Jump Street” and “Heaven Is for Real” and its franchise “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” delivered over $700 million worldwide. “RoboCop,” shared with MGM, performed far better overseas ($184 million) than domestically ($58 million) and “The Monuments Men” turned in a middling performance with $155 million worldwide.

“Sex Tape” and “Moms Night Out” were disappointments and fell short of expectations. Sony’s Screen Gems unit has generated respectable business this year with “Think Like a Man Too” while “About Last Night” turned in a moderate showing and “Deliver Us From Evil” fell short.

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The studio has also been cutting back starting in November when Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton disclosed that the studio had launched “a shift in emphasis from motion pictures to television production” along with a focus on cost-containment. Amy Pascal, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, announced late last year that  the studio would reduce its film output to “closer to 18″ movies per year going forward, from the “low 20s” in recent years.

Sony Entertainment has been pressured since last year by Third Point’s Daniel Loeb, a major shareholder with about 7% of the company. Loeb has criticized the studio for lagging behind competitors in profitability.

The studio announced in December that it had brought in veteran producer Michael De Luca as president of production after nine years in a first-look deal at Sony.

Sony’s only upcoming tentpole franchises are the heavily recognizable “Spider-Man” and James Bond, which it has been sharing with MGM. The next installments of  “The Amazing Spider-Man” have been set to bow June 10, 2016 and May 4, 2018. The 24th Bond movie will open in the U.S. on Nov. 6, 2015.

Blake said in a statement, “I have had a great 22 years here at Sony Pictures and have worked for and with some amazing people. I have tremendous respect for Michael and Amy, and I wish them and the great team at Sony nothing but the best.”

Blake oversaw the marketing campaigns for all five “Spider-Man” films, which have generated nearly $4 billion in box office worldwide since the first 2002. The first movie became the first title to top $100 million domestically in its opening weekend.

He also headed the campaigns for the last three James Bond films with “Skyfall” becoming a smash hit with over $1.1 billion in worldwide grosses. In all, Blake helped 94 films that took first place at the box office since 2000.

“I want to thank Jeff for his 22 years of loyal commitment and service to SPE,” Lynton said. “We are grateful for his incredible achievements and accomplishments. Jeff has had a unique ability to positively impact nearly everyone at the Company. We will miss him and wish him the best in the future.”

Pascal said, “I have worked side-by-side with Jeff for more than two decades. He is the best partner anyone could ever want. We have benefitted greatly from his wisdom and genius. As sad as I am about his decision to leave, we all wish only the best possible things for him.”

News about Blake’s departure was first reported by Deadline.com.

 

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