Sony CEO Details Hands-On Approach to Entertainment Division

6:17 AM PST 05/26/2014 by Gavin J. Blair
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Sony CEO Kaz Hirai

Kaz Hirai is willing to recommend changes to scenes in movies and binge-watches the company's TV series to make sure he is in touch with what is happening at Sony Pictures.

TOKYO -- Sony CEO Kaz Hirai says that his hands-on approach includes suggesting changes to movie endings and binge-watching television series that the company is involved in.

"I spend a lot of time trying stuff out for myself," Hirai said at a roundtable at Sony's Tokyo headquarters on Monday.

"I went to see the final edits for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 before it came out; [Sony Entertainment CEO] Michael [Lynton] and [SPE co-chairman] Amy [Pascal] just wanted to get my thoughts on a few things," Hirai explained.

"I can't edit a film -- I just know if this scene and that scene don't come together quite right. And so maybe we want to explain why this plane is out of control or blind in the air. I know if something is confusing," the company's CEO added.

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Hirai said his hands-on approach can include reading a script and telling Lynton "that story ending is not so good" or suggesting "this part is a little controversial. Do you want to change this or that?"

Having the Sony logo appear at the beginning of movies produced by its studio is another initiative Hirai said he has pushed through.

"I had this discussion with Michael and Amy, and now it has the Sony logo first, and then it fades into the Columbia lady," explained Hirai. "It may be a small thing, but last time I checked, it's a Sony company, and l want people to know it's a Sony company."

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In response to a question from The Hollywood Reporter, Hirai declined to give details about where the ax would fall for the extra $50 million in cuts at Sony Pictures, which was announced at a strategy meeting in Tokyo last week.

"Michael and his team have gone through everything with a fine-tooth comb, and they've identified savings across the board. There's no one area where it's being focused," said Hirai.

Despite barely mentioning movie production at the strategy meeting, Hirai denied that signaled a further shift away from the movie business.

"We may cut one or two films from the slate, but we're not getting out of movie production," the CEO said. "Having said that, at the investor day in Culver City in L.A. last year, we did talk about putting more emphasis on television production and our networks, especially those in places like India. If done right, there's a lot of margin in those businesses, and that allows us to offset some of the risk that we have with the theatrical releases."

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With hit shows like The Blacklist and House of Cards on Sony's roster, Hirai said that the "syndication business starts looking really good."

"We had a hand in House of Cards, so about a month back I spent two weekends just literally binge-watching the 13 episodes. Otherwise I can't talk about House of Cards," Hirai said. "I can't say The Blacklist is a great show if I haven't watched it."

Twitter: @GavinJBlair

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