Studio Legends: Sony
When Sony Corp. bought Columbia Pictures in 1989, Hollywood feared that the studio might be reduced to a loss leader whose films and TV shows would be used to push video recorders and TV sets. Instead, Sony Pictures Entertainment, which took over and refurbished the fabled MGM lot in Culver City, has thrived. Credit goes to John Calley, now 80, who arrived in 1996 as chairman and CEO to right the ship after the stormy Peter Guber/Jon Peters years. Calley had an enviable résumé as a long-running Warner Bros. exec/producer — a fact the Academy acknowledged last year with its Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. “The thing about John is he’s the last great studio exec, truly,” SPE co-chair Amy Pascal, 52, says fondly of the man who supported her as she built her impressive career. “He brought Clint Eastwood and Stanley Kubrick to Warner Bros. He made All the President’s Men. He made Woodstock, The Exorcist — nobody has that kind of career anymore.” Maybe so, but the current team of SPE chairman Michael Lynton, 50, and Pascal — her contract recently was extended five years — are keeping up the tradition: swinging for the fences with big bets like the Spider-Man franchise, cultivating stars including Will Smith and making The Social Network the year’s most talked-about movie. The results? Since 2000, Sony has opened 73 movies at No. 1 at the domestic box office, more than any other studio.