Amy Pascal’s departure as co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chair of its motion picture group leaves Hollywood unsettled over the fate of the studio’s upcoming slate.
The biggest questions at Sony surround the Spider-Man franchise, sequels to the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and the “Cleopatra” project.
It could be several months or more before the post-Pascal priorities of the studio come into focus. And of course much depends on who her successor turns out to be. If Pascal’s top lieutenant, SPE Motion Picture Group president Doug Belgrad, gets the gig, as many expect, there could be minimal changes to the lineup.
Pascal will remain in place through May, at which point she will segue to a producing deal at Sony. Besides Belgrad, other possible replacements from within are former Fox studio chief Tom Rothman, who runs TriStar Pictures; and Columbia Pictures production president Michael De Luca, who ran New Line during the 1990s.
It’s probable that Sony Pictures chairman-CEO Michael Lynton will be averse to tinkering with projects being developed by Rothman and Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8.
The biggest decision for Lynton and Pascal’s successor will be how to handle the Spider-Man franchise. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ did respectable business last summer but was hardly the $1 billion blockbuster that Pascal had told folks that she needed it to be.
“Spider-Man” remains a cash cow, but the plans for expanding the Spidey universe through villain spinoffs and the next installment may be re-examined — since Pascal played the leading role pursuing that path. A new regime may take a stronger look at returning to the negotiation table with Marvel Studios over Spidey’s rights.
Sony’s last move on that front came during Comic-Con in July, when the studio dated spinoff “Sinister Six” for Nov. 11, 2016, as the next tentpole in its key property — while moving back “The Amazing Spider-Man 3″ two years to 2018. The idea of bringing in villains is aimed at making Sony a stronger competitor against the likes of Disney/Marvel’s “Avengers” and Warner Bros.’ “Justice League” superheroes in the coming years.
The studio has also slated “Uncharted” for June 10, 2016 — the date previously held by “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” — with Charles Roven and former Marvel Studios chief Avi Arad producing. Based on the PlayStation videogame series, it follows the adventures of treasure hunter Nathan Drake, signaling Sony’s desire to develop an Indiana Jones-style franchise.
The uncertainty will also extend to Sony’s relationship with powerhouse producer Scott Rudin. The Sony hack revealed several nasty emails between Pascal and Rudin; additionally, Pascal decided to put Rudin’s Steve Jobs biopic into turnaround in November, after which Universal quickly picked up the project.
Pascal was still Rudin’s biggest champion at the studio and a big reason he signed a first-look deal with the studio in 2011. The most prominent of his projects include sequels to 2011’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” — “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”
“Dragon Tattoo” was a critical success and performed respectably at the worldwide box office with $230 million, but no one has been in any hurry to make the next two installments in the series. Pascal’s departure leaves the continuation of that series very much in doubt.
Rudin is also developing a “Little House on the Prairie” movie, but the project does not appear to have gained much traction. That said, Pascal could wind up teaming with Rudin to produce the film once she’s launched her own production company at the studio.
“Cleopatra” also remains a big question mark as the big-budget biopic was probably Pascal’s biggest passion project at Sony. With Angelina Jolie seemingly irked about the leaked emails in which Rudin derided her and Pascal being the film’s biggest supporter, it seems very likely that this movie will move elsewhere.
“Salt 2,” which is not a Rudin project, may also have a murky future with Jolie due to her feelings about the emails.
In terms of projects on the franchise side, “Ghostbusters” and “21 Jump Street” seem safe, but the “Men in Black” series may either be reconsidered or completely abandoned, especially following the much-derided leaked email that suggested creating a spinoff that would combine the “Jump Street” movies with “Men in Black.” Additionally, “Men in Black 3” was so costly and so panned by critics that the new regime may take a pass on this series altogether.