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Sony Names Sanford Panitch Columbia Pictures President

UPDATED: Sanford Panitch has been named president of Columbia Pictures, replacing long-time executive Doug Belgrad, whose departure from the studio leaked out Thursday.

The announcement of Panitch’s appointment came from Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group. Rothman became head of the film operation in February of 2015, in a move designed to right the studio after a series of lackluster films and a computer hack that unveiled embarrassing emails sent by his predecessor, Amy Pascal.

Belgrad will move in July into a multi-year production and finance pact with the company. Panitch, who has been head of international local language production at the studio after leaving 20th Century Fox, will continue to oversee that operation. He will report to Rothman.

“This is an exciting day,” Rothman said in a statement. “We are moving forward to shape the new Columbia Pictures. I have worked with Sanford for over 15 years and my confidence in him is absolute. His big film background and international expertise fits exactly with our expanded global emphasis and ambitions. He is ready to go and Columbia, which has a burgeoning slate, will not miss a beat.”

The move elevates Rothman’s former colleague at Fox, where he headed filmed entertainment from 2000 to 2012, along with Jim Gianopulos. Rothman left Fox for a post at the top of Sony’s Tri-Star Pictures unit, before being elevated to run the studio’s entire film empire.

Rothman thanked, Belgrad, a 27-year veteran at the studio, saying he would become one of the “the very best creative suppliers in the business making films for us,” adding that Sony was “delighted and fortunate to help turn his longtime dream into a reality.”

Panitch said in his own statement that he was “honored to be given the opportunity to help run one of Hollywood’s most storied and iconic labels.” said Panitch. “With the growth of International, the need to produce content with broad global appeal for Columbia Pictures has never been more important. For me there is no line between domestic and international, we are in a global industry. Doug is one of the great executives, and has been a fantastic colleague, and I am looking forward to continue to work with him during the transition and in his new company.”

Panitch joined Sony Pictures Entertainment in June, 2015 as President of International Film & Television.  Friday’s announcement credited him with overseeing a new International Production Group for SPE, which is producing local language films in Japan, Korea, Mexico, UK, Spain, Germany, Brazil, India, China and other countries. In the international production unit, he oversaw development, production, acquisitions, distribution, marketing, strategic planning and all business development. The group has 24 films currently scheduled for release.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton also thanked Belgrad for his work at the studio and said he was happy he would be staying on as a “supplier.” He added congratulations to Panitch, saying the strong moves he had made for the studio internationally were “in lock-step with our industry’s focus on global audiences.”

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