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Sony has named Sanford Panitch as its new president of Columbia Pictures, it was announced Friday by Sony Pictures Entertainment Group chairman Tom Rothman. Panitch will succeed Doug Belgrad, who stepped down Thursday as president of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group. Belgrad will segue from his post in July to a multiyear production and finance pact with the Culver City-based studio.
Panitch, who has a long history of working with Rothman, first at 20th Century Fox and then at Sony, joined Sony in June 2015 as its president of international film and television, which was a newly created position at the time. In addition to his new responsibilities, Panitch, who will report to Rothman, will continue to oversee the international local-language production operation he has built since coming to the studio.
During the nine months he has headed international production, Panitch has overseen the new division, which has been producing local-language film content in 10 countries and currently has 24 films scheduled for release. Sony is in preproduction on two Chinese films and is distributing Hindi-language films in India. Panitch also helped Sony land international distribution rights to Stephen Chow’s Mermaid, China’s highest-grossing movie of all time.
Before joining Sony, Panitch was the founding president of Fox International Productions and, before that, served stints as president of filmed entertainment at New Regency and executive vp production at Fox.
“This is an exciting day,” Rothman said in announcing Panitch’s appointment. “We are moving forward to shape the new Columbia Pictures. I have worked with Sanford for over 15 years and my confidence in him is absolute. His big film background and international expertise fits exactly with our expanded global emphasis and ambitions. He is ready to go and Columbia, which has a burgeoning slate, will not miss a beat.”
Rothman also said of Belgrad, “I also want to thank Doug for all he has done for Columbia and congratulate him on his new venture. To succeed with our strategy, we must have the very best suppliers in the business making films for us. I know without question Doug will be exactly that. We are delighted, and fortunate, to help him turn his longtime dream into a reality.”
Added Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton: “Doug has been a trusted leader and I congratulate him on his new venture. Doug knows this business inside and out, and we are very happy he will be staying in the SPE family as a supplier. I also want to congratulate Sanford, whose expertise and overall approach to international markets is in lock-step with our industry’s focus on global audiences.”
Said Panitch: “I am honored to be given the opportunity to help run one of Hollywood’s most storied and iconic labels. With the growth of international, the need to produce content with broad global appeal for Columbia Pictures has never been more important. For me there is no line between domestic and international, we are in a global industry. Doug is one of the great executives, and has been a fantastic colleague, and I am looking forward to continue to work with him during the transition and in his new company.”
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