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Tom Rothman Launching TriStar Productions at Sony

Tom Rothman - P 2012
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Tom Rothman

UPDATED: The move comes almost a year after Rothman announced he was leaving his top job at Fox; the new entity will produce up to four films a year as well as develop television programming for Sony Pictures Television.

Tom Rothman is launching TriStar Productions for Sony Pictures Entertainment, where he has a close relationship with the leadership. The move comes nearly a year after the tenacious and prolific studio executive announced he was leaving his top job at 20th Century Fox.

The production company will open its doors for business on Sept. 1. Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, made the joint announcement with SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal. Rothman will have an equity interest in the entity and serve as its chairman. He'll report directly to Lynton and Pascal. 

"Throughout my entire career, I've always tried to zig when other people zagged, and that's what I'm going to do here," Rothman told The Hollywood Reporter. "I wanted to be with supportive bosses and management, and Michael and Amy have just been incredibly terrific to me from the beginning. And I think they are superb executives. I feel very lucky.

Rothman said the time since he left Fox has been "kind of great for me. After 18 years of going to the same office, and making the same commute, it's been very eye opening."

SPE will provide financing for the new entity and retain all distribution rights worldwide. The ambitious mandate calls for TriStar Productions to produce up to four films a year, all of which will be released under the TriStar Pictures banner. Additionally, Rothman's group will develop long-form and series programming for Sony Pictures Television.

"Tom is a rare executive who loves movies, loves filmmakers, understands how to make money and has exquisite taste. He has the perfect programming sensibility to add to our slate mix and it will be a thrill to have him as part of our team," said Pascal, who immediately offered Rothman office space when he officially exited the Fox lot in January (he also had an office at DreamWorks, where he is helping produce Steven Spielberg's Robopocalpyse, which has since been put on hold).

Added Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko: "Sony Pictures Television is in business with the best in the business, and we couldn’t be more excited to have Tom join our family."

TriStar Productions will have its own in-house creative production executives and strategic marketing capabilities while relying on the studio's overall infrastructure. The entity will be allowed to take on outside investments as well.

The TriStar name has a long and storied history but in recent years, it's been more of a distribution banner than a production entity. Examples of TriStar Pictures releases include Looper, Sparkle and District 9. Elysium is also going out through TriStar.

"In the late '80s, Amy and I worked together for Dawn Steel on the old Columbia lot in Burbank," said Rothman in a statement. "I admired her hugely then and I admire her more now -- she has a truly exceptional film mind. I have known and respected Michael just as long. Together they run a superb company, loaded with outstanding executives at every level, including Steve Mosko."

Rothman served as chairman/CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, a post he shared with current chairman/CEO Jim Gianopulos. Rothman, who spent 18 years at Fox, beginning when he launched Fox Searchlight, was always considered more of the creative executive, and was intensely involved in all aspects of filmmaking. His numerous successes included Avatar, the Night at the Museum franchise, Life of Pi, Titanic, the X-Men franchise and the Ice Age series.

At the time his departure was announced, there was speculation that News Corp. higher-ups were displeased when Rothman opposed striking a new distribution deal with Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation.

News of Rothman's new production company comes as activist investor Daniel Loeb continues to attack SPE for its bloated management, calling upon Sony to divest itself of its entertainment assets (interestingly, Rothman has a longtime reputation for being frugal). The studio is suffering a difficult summer between After Earth and White House Down -- although comedies This Is the End and Grown Ups 2 have both performed admirably.