Lynton re-ups at Sony


Following the motto "if it ain't broke don't fix it," Sony has extended the contract of Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton to 2012.

Lynton joined SPE in January 2004. After weathering some initial boxoffice disappointments, he led Sony Pictures to a record $1.7 billion and change at the domestic boxoffice in 2006 with co-chairman Amy Pascal. Top hits included "The Da Vinci Code" and "Casino Royale."

SPE also earned more than $3.3 billion in worldwide boxoffice receipts that year, an all-time high for the company. Last week, Sony topped $1 billion at the domestic boxoffice for the sixth straight year, including the year's biggest U.S. hit to date, "Spider-Man 3."

"Michael Lynton's financial acumen and firm grasp of content in the digital era is exactly what's needed to lead a studio in the 21st century," said Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, who announced the extension. "Together he and Amy have become a forceful and dynamic team, guiding the studio to even greater heights than I could have hoped."

Lynton's contract was set to expire in March. The extension comes a little more than a year after Pascal was promoted to co-chairman of Sony Pictures and had her contract extended to 2011.

"I think I've forged a great partnership with Amy and we have a solid management team in all areas," Lynton said by phone Wednesday. "We've made a substantial push on the international front, both in distribution and in production. I think Amy and I have focused on both varying the slate and bringing financial discipline to the plate."

Among the 2008 slate are the 22nd Bond film, the "Da Vinci" follow-up "Angels & Demons," "Hancock" and "You Don't Mess With the Zohan."

Under Lynton's tenure, the studio has created an international motion picture group to strengthen its worldwide presence, as well as established new television channels around the world. Sony pioneered the idea of producing local shows in local languages in foreign territories, often with foreign broadcasters. After 10 years at it, in territories as diverse as India, Brazil and Germany, the venture is making money.

On the domestic TV side, the company has been making great strides during the past couple of years. Sony Pictures Television has a total of 10 pilot orders across broadcast and cable and is producing 21 shows, including syndicated series, along with TV movies.

This season, the division will have four new dramas premiering: "Cashmere Mafia" on ABC, "Viva Laughlin" on CBS, "Canterbury's Law" on Fox and "Breaking Bad" on AMC.

SPT also produces such series as CBS' "Rules of Engagement" and "Power of 10," FX's "Rescue Me" and "The Shield" and top-rated syndicated game shows "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" (the latter two are distributed by CBS Television Distribution). Other credits include the Emmy-winning AMC miniseries "Broken Trail" and the successful "Jesse Stone" franchise of movies for CBS.

Lynton also has overseen the studio's digital distribution of content and the development of the Blu-ray Disc.

"I think we have to focus more on the digital side in terms of distribution and how we market in that arena," he said.

Gregg Goldstein reported from New York; Leslie Simmons reported from Los Angeles. Kimberly Nordyke in Los Angeles contributed to this report.