This story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
On Aug. 5, nearly six months after he replaced Amy Pascal as chairman of Sony’s motion picture group, Tom Rothman finally showed his cards. The former Fox studio chief revealed an ambitious, eyebrow-raising slate of films, dating 16 titles at once. There are blasts from the past (a Jumanji reboot, another Resident Evil and two installments in the long-dormant Bad Boys franchise), Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower, video game-based Uncharted and the Jennifer Lawrence–Chris Pratt space-set two-hander Passengers, among others.
“The dated films reflect the hard work of many people inside and outside of the company but are just the start of making Sony a consistent volume supplier of quality product for diverse audiences worldwide,” Rothman tells THR. Observers are mixed on the slate (Jumanji?!), especially since many key talent details are not set (Will Smith will be involved in the revival of Bad Boys, for instance, but it’s not clear whether he will star, produce or both, insiders say). But Rothman at least is greenlighting movies. Sony was left crippled for much of the winter after falling prey to a massive cyberattack. Adding insult to injury, the studio — which has lacked proven franchises outside of Spider-Man — has suffered a miserable 2015 at the box office (its top film is Pixels at $131.3 million worldwide).
Rothman, who arrived at Sony in 2013 to run its TriStar unit, also has made changes to his top executives. Hannah Minghella, Pascal’s president of production, is shifting to run TriStar, while that label’s David Beaubaire and outside production executive Palak Patel will serve as executive vps production for Sony/Columbia Pictures, reporting to motion picture group president Doug Belgrad (the traditional president of production job is being eliminated).
Factoring in the Aug. 5 reveal, Sony boasts a potentially healthy menu of event films in 2016. That includes Paul Feig‘s female-led Ghostbusters (July 15); Ron Howard‘s Dan Brown adaptation Inferno (Oct. 14), starring Tom Hanks; and Passengers (Dec. 21). There’s also Jodie Foster‘s The Money Monster (April 8), starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, and The Magnificent Seven reboot (Sept. 23), with Pratt and Denzel Washington. The following year includes Dark Tower (Jan. 13); Bad Boys 3 (Feb. 17); Barbie (June 2); Uncharted (June 30); and the already announced Spider-Man reboot (July 28). Bad Boys 4 is slated for July 3, 2019, one of the most coveted dates on the calendar.
Time will tell if the moves pay off, but analysts give Rothman kudos for being aggressive. “They are taking what they have and building off that,” says Eric Handler of MKM Partners. “When you have a big franchise film, you have to plant the flag as fast as possible, which Sony wasn’t doing before.”
And Rothman says he is “by no means finished. There are many other projects moving forward aggressively that we hope to add, including all of the outstanding work that [Jeff Robinov‘s] Studio 8 is making.”