×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sony Pictures Chief Tom Rothman Says Movie Business Must Stay Committed to Originality

Sony Pictures has been through the wringer.

After a devastating cyber attack from North Korea in 2014, the studio suffered through a string of costly film flops like “Pixels” and “Pride and Prejudice” and Zombies,” many of them greenlit under the regime of former studio chief Amy Pascal.

But, at long last, Sony may be digging out from the wreckage. At CinemaCon on Tuesday, the studio presented an ambitious slate of familiar franchises such as “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and an all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot, with bold bets such as “Passengers,” a steamy space adventure with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. The films, newly minted studio chief Tom Rothman stressed, were pitched at global audiences who are driving box office growth, and cater to many different segments of the moviegoing public — from faith-based crowds to family audiences.

“We intend to leave no audience unserved,” said Rothman.

The message to theater owners was clear: It’s a new day at Sony. Some of the films that Rothman is backing, such as an adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” or a mashup of “Men in Black” and “21 Jump Street,” are still in pre-production or having only begun shooting. They signal, however, that the studio is taking bigger bets as it tries to compete with juggernauts such as Disney and Warner Bros., who boast top shelf comic book brands and evergreen franchises. In a sign of corporate support, Sony Entertainment head Michael Lynton, flew to Vegas and was seated in the front row during Rothman’s big pitch to exhibitors.

But Rothman also stressed that not everything will have a Roman numeral affixed to its title. The company also plans to make films like “Passengers” or Ang Lee’s war film “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” which experiments with higher frame rates.

“We also believe that it is vital to maintain our commitment to originality,” said Rothman, adding that there would have been no “Avatar” or “Straight Outta Compton,” “without leaps into the unknown.”

The hard-charging executive is employing a strategy he used at Fox, his former home. Sony is bolstering its various labels, the company’s executives told theater owners. Tri-Star will be used for prestige fare such as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” and Jodie Foster’s financial thriller “Money Monster,” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Screen Gems will continue to handle horror films and genre pictures such as the Morris Chestnut thriller “When the Bough Breaks.” Sony Animation is tasked with making animated family films such as a cartoon version of “Spider-Man” from “The Lego Movie’s” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Affirm will handle religious-themed pictures like the recent “Miracles From Heaven.” And Columbia is in the tentpole game, fielding the likes of the Tom Hanks thriller “Inferno” and a new Spider-Man adventure, with Tom Holland taking over for Andrew Garfield.

“Sony is a company with something for everyone,” said Rory Bruer, the studio’s distribution chief.

To sell theater owners on its vision, Sony rolled out A-listers like Pratt, Lawrence, Melissa McCarthy, and Kristen Wiig, but it was Rothman who remained center stage for much of the presentation. This is his studio now. He is the one tasked will making sure it will survive and even thrive in the digital age. It will rise and fall on his vision.

But Rothman didn’t seem intimidated by the challenge. After the crowd of theater owners whooped for a teaser showing Lawrence and Pratt trapped in space in “Passengers,” he offered a challenge for one of the companies upending the movie business.

“Let’s see Netflix do that,” he said.

More Film

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Bong Joon-ho reacts after winning the

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes

    CANNES — The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped with jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu announcing the group’s unanimous decision to award the Palme d’Or to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his sly, politically charged “Parasite.” Following last year’s win for humanistic Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” the well-reviewed Asian thriller represents the yin [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to truly have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally acknowledged that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was a bit lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Soaring to $100 Million-Plus Memorial Day Weekend Debut

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” remake is on its way to a commendable Memorial Day weekend debut with an estimated $109 million over the four-day period. The musical fantasy starring Will Smith and Mena Massoud should uncover about $87 million in its first three days from 4,476 North American theaters after taking in $31 million on Friday. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content