Sony signs a Blake check

Four-year extension for SPE boss

Sony has rewarded Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Jeff Blake for his role in the studio's recent boxoffice success, handing the marketing and distribution veteran a four-year contract extension.

Blake's previous contract wasn't set to expire until the end of this year, but now his pact will run through 2012.

"I think I'll be working right through the Apocalypse," Blake quipped after the pact was announced Wednesday.

SPE sits third in boxoffice market share this year and has opened three films at No. 1. Blake also is chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group.

"I've been here 16 years, and it's been a really great place to be, and keeps getting better," said Blake, who first joined as domestic distribution president for Columbia Pictures. "I love the people I work for and the people who work for me. So you can't do any better than that."

Sony seems intent on locking down key executives, extending the contract of SPE chairman and CEO Michael Lynton through 2012 in October. SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal won a contract extension to 2011 when she was upped to her current post in September 2006. In March, Columbia Pictures presidents Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach each were granted pacts running through 2011, and Sony Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper won a new pact through 2012.

"I'm thrilled to know my role going forward," Blake said. "And No. 1 on the list now is to make sure we keep this talented team together, because I wouldn't want to work with anybody else but a lot of the people we've got here right now."

In February, Sony/Columbia bowed the action thriller "Vantage Point" atop the boxoffice with $22.9 million en route to a $71.9 million domestic haul. Its "21" copped weekend laurels in successive frames, opening March 28 with $24.1 million and currently toting $62 million domestically.

Last weekend, genre unit Screen Gems' "Prom Night" topped the session with $20.8 million.

"We're bringing our A-game to every picture we make," Blake said. "The year has gotten off to a great start, and we have great pictures to come.

Sony's busy summer slate includes such tentpoles as the Adam Sandler comedy "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," set for June 6, and the Will Smith starrer "Hancock," opening July 2.

"Jeff Blake has and will continue to be one of Sony Pictures' most valued senior executives and strategists," Lynton said. "Jeff has built an unparalleled global and marketing distribution network, which is recognized as the best in the business."

SPE has released 52 No. 1 films since 2002, when Blake joined the studio. The studio's domestic grosses over that span exceed $8 billion.

"Jeff is one of the smartest and most widely respected and admired executives in his field, and the numbers speak loudly in telling the story of his impact on our studio" Pascal said.

Blake previously worked in distribution at Disney and Paramount. In his last Paramount position before joining Sony, he was executive vp and general sales manager from 1987-92.
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