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HBO Executive Will Take the Reins at TriStar Pictures

July 16, 1996|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sony Pictures Entertainment officially got its cable guy on Monday, confirming that it has hired Home Box Office movie chief Robert Cooper to run its TriStar Pictures unit.

The hiring, which had been expected for several days, is part of a broader executive revamping at the company, which operates the Columbia and TriStar studio units.

The hiring of former Disney marketing executive Robert Levin to replace Sony marketing chief Sid Ganis, who is getting a producing deal, is expected to be formally announced by the end of the week.

In addition, the status of Columbia Pictures President Lisa Henson is up in the air. Speculation is rising that she will eventually leave her post to become a producer or take a job at another studio. Marc Platt, whom Cooper is replacing at TriStar, is likely to leave the studio with a lucrative settlement.

Sony executives said the shifts are part of a larger reorganization whose goal is to establish clearer identities for Columbia and TriStar. A Sony spokesman denied speculation making the rounds in Hollywood that Sony plans to make its big-budget films at Columbia and its lower-budget ones at TriStar.

TriStar's results the last few years have been mixed. It released such profitable and critically acclaimed films as "Legends of the Fall" and "Sleepless in Seattle," but also such duds as "Mary Reilly" and "If Lucy Fell."

For Cooper, 51, the move to Sony is the latest in what has been an unusually varied career. At 19, he moved from his native Montreal to Southern California to study as an actor at the Pasadena Playhouse. After returning to Canada, he earned a master's in sociology, writing his thesis on Beatlemania. He then became a lawyer and opened a storefront public-interest law firm and investigated organized crime.

Cooper later became what he described as the "Mike Wallace of Canada," an investigative reporter for a Canadian show similar to "60 Minutes." Cooper began producing films for HBO with the original cable movie "The Terry Fox Story," about a young man who walked across Canada after losing a leg to cancer. Former HBO chief Michael Fuchs eventually hired him full time.

At HBO, Cooper oversaw such acclaimed movies as "Barbarians at the Gate," "And The Band Played On" and "The Late Shift."

Cooper is moving into mainstream Hollywood at a time when all studios are complaining about the rising costs of talent and marketing, which are mainly responsible for pushing the average price to make and market a movie above $50 million. "For me, $9 million is a lot of money," Cooper said.

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