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Sony Pictures Chief Receives Reward for Studio's Revival

Amy Pascal is named co-chair of the film unit and signs an extended contract after a series of box-office hits.

September 07, 2006|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

Sony Pictures Entertainment movie chief Amy Pascal is being rewarded for her contributions with a bigger title and a longer contract.

Pascal on Wednesday was named co-chair, signing a deal aimed at keeping her on the studio's Culver City lot until 2011.

The moves follow a turnaround this year for Sony that included such hits as "The Da Vinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, the Will Ferrell comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and the Adam Sandler film "Click."

Pascal's promotion underscores her successful working relationship with Sony Pictures Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Lynton. The two continue to report to Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO of Japanese parent Sony Corp.

Although Lynton retains his sole chairmanship title, he said he considered Pascal his equal.

"This validates the way we've been operating the company and making decisions jointly," Lynton said. "Amy's the creative force of the company and she has a terrific business sense as well."

Pascal said that although Lynton, who oversees the financial management of the studio, "has the final word" on business matters, "that's OK because we operate as partners."

Pascal -- a respected executive known for her big personality, outspoken manner and strong talent relationships -- has had her share of hits and misses since joining Sony in 1996.

Last year, she presided over such costly duds as "Bewitched," "The Legend of Zorro," "Stealth" and "XXX: State of the Union." A year earlier, she oversaw such hits as "Spider-Man 2" and the Sandler comedy "50 First Dates."

"I've been at rock bottom and on the top," Pascal said. "And whether you're up or down, the only thing you worry about is what's next on your release slate."

This year Sony has released eight films that opened at No. 1 at the box office, including "RV," starring Robin Williams, and a "Pink Panther" remake headlined by Steve Martin.

On Pascal's watch, Sony is the only studio other than Warner Bros. to have generated more than $1 billion in domestic ticket sales for five consecutive years.

A 25-year industry veteran, Pascal, 48, worked at Sony's Columbia Pictures from 1987 to 1994. She also worked at 20th Century Fox and the now-defunct Turner Pictures.

She said she couldn't recall a tougher time in the business. Studios are slashing overhead, scaling back production deals and rethinking strategies in response to piracy, slowing DVD sales and fickle audiences.

"It's more difficult to make movies, and everybody is asking more questions before making them," Pascal said. "What was once tried and true is not always the case now. Hiring an actor or director who's had enormous success doesn't guarantee a successful movie."

But dealing with those hurdles, Lynton said, is easier with Pascal on board. "These are complicated issues, and you need to talk them through with someone whose views you trust."

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claudia.eller@latimes.com

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