×

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.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jon Favreau'The Lion King' film premiere,

    Jon Favreau Addresses Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola's Criticism of Marvel Movies

    Jon Favreau, actor, director and staple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, addressed Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola’s criticisms of Marvel movies during an interview with CNBC.  “These two guys are my heroes and they’ve earned the right to express their opinions,” Favreau said. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if they didn’t carve [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Laika Plans All-Day Retrospective of Catalog

    Award-winning animation studio Laika (“ParaNorman,” “Coraline”) will present a special retrospective entitled Missing Link and the Evolution of Laika in Los Angeles on Oct. 27. Taking place at The Landmark, the all-day event will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a screening of BAFTA Award-winning film “Kubo and the Two Strings” and close with an 8:45 [...]

  • Best Picture Contenders

    Examining the Best Picture Race in a Year of Disruption

    In the lead-up to Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” there was some fretting about how a director known for grindhouse exploitation might handle the summer of 1969, when the Manson murders capped a period of social upheaval. While Tarantino does get around to what happened on Cielo Drive on the fateful [...]

  • Vanessa Kirby poses for photographers at

    Vanessa Kirby to Star in Drama 'Pieces of a Woman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Hobbs & Shaw” actress Vanessa Kirby is in negotiations to star in the Bron Studios pic “Pieces of a Woman,” sources tell Variety. Kornél Mundruczó will direct with Kata Wéber penning the script. Reps for Kirby could not be reached for comment. Specific plot details are being kept under wraps, but it is known that [...]

  • Suki WaterhouseSave the Children Centennial Celebration,

    Dark Castle, HanWay and Ingenious Partner on Simon Barrett's 'Seance' Starring Suki Waterhouse

    Dark Castle Entertainment, HanWay Films and Ingenious Media have partnered on horror film “Seance,” directed by Simon Barrett and starring Suki Waterhouse. Set in an all-girls boarding school haunted by a vengeful spirit, Waterhouse (“Assassination Nation,” “The Bad Batch”) plays Camille, a young woman who arrives at the Fairfield Academy following one of the student’s [...]

  • The Black List

    The Black List Reveals India Plans

    The Black List, an online yearly survey that features Hollywood’s most popular unpublished screenplays, is all set to make an imprint in India. The survey’s founder Franklin Leonard revealed this during a masterclass at the ongoing Mumbai film festival, where he is also serving as the head of the India Gold competition jury. “One of [...]

  • China Pavilion at TIFFCOM 2019

    'Still Life' Remake Heads for Japan-China Fund Backing

    A Japanese-language remake of British drama “Still Life” could be the first film to flow from a fund created to support Chinese-Japanese joint productions. The fund is operated by WeF Cultural Investment Media, a company founded earlier this year with the backing of government bodies in Beijing and Qingdao — the Chinese coastal city which [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content