Amy Pascal, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Pascal demonstrated her savvy and staying power by steering her studio toward a record 12 No. 1 openings.After a dismal 2005 that found Sony Pictures Entertainment in an uncharacteristic eighth place among the major distributors, Amy Pascal took the venerable movie studio for a phenomenal 180-degree turn this year, opening 12 No. 1 films this year and reaching the $1 billion domestic boxoffice milestone mark faster than any other studio. The dramatic rebound earned Pascal a promotion to co-chairman of SPE, alongside chairman and CEO Michael Lynton, and extended her deal with the studio into 2011.
"We picked better movies this year. That's what it came down to," says Pascal, who began the year with a new domestic marketing head, Valerie Van Galder, and spent a lot of time rejiggering Sony's international operations. "I think, in the end, we made some better choices."
Of course, many of those choices were made before 2005 was deemed a disaster. Nonetheless, they worked. Between the early successes of February's "The Pink Panther" and April's "R.V." to the summer juggernaut "The Da Vinci Code," which earned the studio $217.5 million domestically and reaped an additional $538 million overseas for a $750 million-plus worldwide cume, Sony's reversal happened quickly and dramatically.
In fact, with a slate of 29 films for 2006, the only misfires came from Steven Zaillian's "All the King's Men," Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" and Revolution Studios' "Zoom." Pascal and her cohorts have spent much of the year focusing their attention on films that can succeed on a global basis, most notably demonstrated by the international success of "Da Vinci" and the recent release of the latest James Bond movie, "Casino Royale."
"Our international group has gotten so good," Pascal says. "Movies that work on a global basis are something we take very seriously, more seriously than we ever had in our past."
Pascal also has shifted her focus away from looking for franchise potential in every film. "There was a period after (2002's) 'Spider-Man' where we thought that everything should be a franchise, and now I don't think that's true," she explains. "I think everybody seems to go through that period where you want to turn everything into a brand, and that just doesn't work."
A prime example of a brand that didn't work was 2005's "The Legend of Zorro," the sequel to 1998's "Mask of Zorro." Greenlit primarily because it was a follow-up to a successful original film, audiences recognized the lack of originality and didn't show up at theaters. "Legend" earned a dismal $46 million at the domestic boxoffice.
Although "Zorro" failed to catch fire, Pascal still has a few blockbuster franchises on her plate, including next summer's hotly anticipated "Spider-Man 3." She already has found success in re-energizing the James Bond franchise with "Casino Royale," which earned an incredible opening weekend gross of $40.8 million.
Pascal says she couldn't be prouder of the studio's last-quarter releases. "We have Bond, which I can't wait for the world to see. We have 'Stranger Than Fiction,' (the Will Smith starrer) 'The Pursuit of Happyness' and Nancy Meyers' 'The Holiday," Pascal says. "I wish I could end every year with those four movies."
And with Pascal's promotion initiated by her direct boss Lynton, Sony displayed its faith in its executive, who has been with the company in her leadership role since 1996.
"I think you see so many partnerships at the studios right now because to run a studio today, you have to understand and know so many different businesses," she says. "It's really good to have somebody to close the door with at the end of the day and ask if we're doing the right thing."
With such vast responsibilities, it's not surprising that she's still trying to juggle the demands of work and home.
"It's impossible -- there is no way to say I have mastered it," says Pascal, whose son Anthony is now 6. "I do it like we all do it: catch as catch can. Now, we try to set boundaries of how much we live in the entertainment world and how much we live in the world of our own family. It's hard, like juggling mountains."
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