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Sony Is Combining Its TriStar, Columbia Units

March 31, 1998|MARLA MATZER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In a long-anticipated move, Sony Pictures Entertainment is folding its TriStar Pictures into its Columbia Pictures unit, creating a single film production arm under the Columbia name. No layoffs are anticipated.

The three executives, who are the heads of both units--Vice Chairwoman Lucy Fisher, co-Vice Chairman Gareth Wigan and President Kenneth Lemberger--will continue in their positions.

The move unites both studios' film production activities, including business affairs, legal and story departments, effective immediately. The studios' television production operations were merged in June 1996. The television production unit, along with home video and some other units, still goes by the name Columbia TriStar.

Columbia is a 74-year-old studio; TriStar was formed 16 years ago by a joint venture of three companies: Columbia Pictures, CBS Television and Home Box Office (hence the name TriStar).

John Calley, president and chief operating officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said the merger will allow Sony to focus on producing a larger number of pictures with greater efficiency and less rivalry.

"Two studios under one roof doesn't make sense to me," Calley said. He added that the dual structure "produces a lot of psychic masochism . . . [about] who's closer to the commissary, who has better offices."

Sony purchased Columbia and TriStar in 1989. After several abysmal years, Sony rebounded in '97 to become the highest-grossing studio at the U.S. box office, with such hits as "Air Force One" and "Men in Black."

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