‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ Helmer Genndy Tartakovsky Confronts Studio Notes, Striving To Break Out With Original Works

Read on: Deadline.

Asked to direct Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation—following his work on two prior installments of the franchise—the biggest obstacle Genndy Tartakovsky faced was that he didn’t want to make the film in the first place. Seeing installmen…

Sony Pictures Ups Michael Marshall To President Of Business Affairs Across All Labels

Read on: Deadline.

Sony Pictures Entertainment boss Tom Rothman announced today that Michael Marshall will move from President of Business Affairs for Columbia Pictures to overseeing the film slate across all Sony labels as President, Business Affairs, of the SPE Motion …

Sony Extends Tom Rothman’s Contract as Head of Motion Picture Group

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Sony Pictures has extended its contract with Tom Rothman as head of the company’s Motion Picture Group.

Rothman joined Sony in 2013 as chairman of TriStar, and was named to the head of the Motion Picture Group in February 2015. The Motion Picture Group encompasses Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Animation, and Sony Pictures Classics.

Last year, Sony’s domestic box office grosses crossed $1 billion for the first time since 2014 on the back of films like “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a film that was made possible through a deal with Marvel Studios prior to Rothman’s promotion.

Sony also found success with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which became a surprise holiday box office hit with $962 million grossed worldwide and a sequel now in development. As a result of such success, Sony Pictures Entertainment reported profits of $376 million for the 2017 fiscal year, compared to a $719 million loss in 2016.

Also Read: Sony Cuts Staff as TV Reorganization Continues

Sony’s upcoming film slate includes a series of “Spider-Man” spinoffs, starting with next month’s “Venom” and followed by December’s animated “Into the Spider-Verse.” In 2019, the studio will release “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” as well as an updated spin on “Charlie’s Angels,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,” and Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” starring Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan, and Emma Watson.

“The film studio has made great progress in its turnaround efforts due to Tom’s ability to leverage not only his own skills and expertise, but the talents of an exceptionally strong team of executives in the Motion Picture Group,” said Sony Pictures Chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra in a statement.

“The team is really hitting its stride under Tom’s leadership and guidance, and we look forward to further progress and success in the years to come.”

Also Read: Sony Taps ‘Equalizer’ Writer Richard Wenk to Write ‘Kraven the Hunter’

“I am very grateful to Yoshida-san and Tony, and all my terrific colleagues around the world, for the support they have given our efforts at the Studio,” said Rothman.

“We feel pretty great about how far we have come, but know that there is still more to do, so I am pleased to continue the effort.  Because of all the filmmaking talent here and the awesome people who work here, this job is a privilege and I am committed to doing the best I can to continue to honor that privilege in the years to come.”

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Many women have left Sony over the past year — Christine Birch, Paula Askanas, Amy Carney, Andrea Wong and Jean Guerin come to mind — and now this: an email from two top male executives inviting women to participate in a Women’s Creat…

Quentin Tarantino Steals The Show At Sony’s Slick Presentation Of A Pretty Dark Slate And Very Special Dog – CinemaCon

Read on: Deadline.

From my perspective, truly the most exciting and personally anticipated piece of footage of upcoming films touted at tonight’s kick-off Sony Pictures CinemaCon presentation was for a movie for which not one foot of film has yet to be shot.
Pickin…

Quentin Tarantino: Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio Are the New Robert Redford and Paul Newman

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

In an exciting but entirely predictable humblebrag, Sony Pictures lured their new creative partner Quentin Tarantino to CinemaCon 2018, where the movie-obsessed director charmed thousands of American exhibitors.

Appearing with his leading man Leonardo DiCaprio, Tarantino walked out onto The Forum stage at Caesar’s Palace with nary a concept image or additional cast to announce for his upcoming tenth film — “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — which Sony snatched from a wide field of competitors after the fall of Tarantino’s longtime distribution partner Harvey Weinstein.

“Sony and myself will be coming to the theaters with the most exciting star dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman,” Tarantino promised the crowd.

Also Read: ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’: Tarantino’s Latest Gets Leo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt – and a Title

He’s referring to his other massive star, Brad Pitt, who will lead the project with DiCaprio. The men will play a faded TV star and his live-in stunt double searching for relevance in a changing Hollywood landscape in 1969.

Oh, and their neighbors are a nice couple named Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate.

“It takes place at the advent of the counterculture explosion. It takes place at the time of the hippie revolution and the height of new Hollywood,” Tarantino said.

He had no further details but promised that during production he would be transforming Los Angeles “street by street, block by block” to model exteriors in step with the period.

Sony’s Motion Picture Group President Tom Rothman called Tarantino’s script “the best I’ve had the privilege to read.”

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DiCaprio didn’t have much to add, finding it difficult to speak at length about a film that has yet to shoot “a single frame.”

The conversation ended with a rousing thank you from Tarantino to the theater owners for keeping the cinematic experience where it belongs –in their theater.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” hasn’t begun principal photography yet, but it has a release date.

The new Butch and Sundance will be coming at you on August 9, 2019.

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Steph Curry Signs Production Deal With Sony Pictures

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Sony Picture Entertainment has inked a multi-year development and production deal with Steph Curry for film, TV and worldwide partnerships, the company announced Monday.

Curry just recently formed a production company titled Unanimous Media with partners Jeron Smith (CEO) and Erick Peyton (CCO). Their production company will produce film and TV projects with a focus on family, faith and sports, and the deal will also extend to electronics, gaming and virtual reality.

The production company’s headquarters will be located on the Sony Pictures studio lot in Culver City,California.

Also Read: Steph Curry Dubs Sports Illustrated Protest Cover ‘Terrible’ for Omitting Colin Kaepernick

“Steph is a transcendent figure in current culture. His wide-ranging content creation interests overlap well with our varied businesses and we have been equally impressed with his team,” said Tom Rothman, Chairman, Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group. “We are honored to have been drafted and now we know how lucky Golden State feels every day.”

“We’re thrilled to work alongside Steph to bring his positive, affirming brand to create content in the scripted and non-scripted television landscape,” added Chris Parnell, co-president Sony Pictures Television. “He’s tapping into his drive and creative energy on the court to expand to horizons off the court and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

Also Read: Steph Curry Disses Donald Trump, Under Armour With Clever Word Play

Bryan Smiley, vice president of production at Columbia Pictures, brokered the deal and will oversee production and development with Unanimous Media for the motion picture group. Jeffrey Godsick, executive vice president of brand strategy and global partnerships, will oversee the opportunities across Sony platforms. Chris Parnell, co-president of Sony Pictures Television will oversee the TV projects in both the scripted and non-scripted spaces.

Golden State Warriors point guard Curry is currently out of the NBA playoffs after suffering a Grade 2 left MCL sprain on March 23.

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Sony Honchos Rally the Troops at All-Hands Meeting (EXCLUSIVE)

Read on: Variety.

Fresh off the box-office success of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” Sony honchos — chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra, studio chief Tom Rothman and newly-installed TV chief Mike Hopkins — held an all-hands meeting Thursday to talk about how Sony is positioning itself in the era of studio consolidation and fierce competition from streaming giants. […]

How ‘Jumanji’ Conquered ‘Spider-Man’ To Become Sony’s Highest-Grossing Film Ever At The U.S. Box Office

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: It finally happened.
Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is officially the studio’s highest-grossing film ever at the domestic box office, overtaking Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man ($403.7 million) which has owned the title for the past 16 years.
Heading into the holiday season, executives across distribution and film finance had a strong feeling that this reboot of Jumanji directed by Jake Kasdan would serve as strong counter-programming to Disney’s Star Wars: The La…

Christine Birch Steps Down as Sony Pictures Domestic Marketing Head

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Christine Birch has resigned her post as Sony Pictures president of domestic marketing after a two-week probe into her workplace behavior, including reports that she smoked marijuana at the office, insiders told TheWrap.

Official word of her resignation came down from Sony’s marketing chief Josh Greenstein on Wednesday, who said Birch originally approached him about resigning in January.

In late March, Variety reported that Birch’s marketing subordinates had filed complaints about her behavior — including that she vaped marijuana during work hours, despite numerous warnings to stop.

Also Read: Sony Pictures Names Michael Helfand, Joe Matukewicz Worldwide Acquisitions Heads

Multiple individuals familiar with the workplace downplayed the seriousness of the investigation. Birch was asked to take time off during the probe, one of the insiders said, but was never formally suspended.

That individual, and a second one who spoke to TheWrap, speculated that the press leak likely came from Birch’s staff in an attempt to force her resignation. Andre Caraco, co-president of domestic marketing, will fill Birch’s shoes for now.

Greenstein applauded her recent successes like the record-setting “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Birch herself thanked studio head Tom Rothman and Greenstein, saying “I’m very proud of the team and I’m incredibly grateful … now, I’m ready for a new challenge.”

Also Read: Sony Pictures CEO Admits Need to Grow Studio Amid ‘Floodgates’ of Big Media Mergers

Read the full memo obtained by TheWrap:

Dear colleagues,

Following an extraordinarily impressive run in Columbia’s Domestic Marketing department, Christine Birch is stepping down from her post as President of Domestic Marketing.

Christine approached us about leaving in January 2018, following the record-setting performance of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Under her tenure, Sony’s domestic marketing department produced some of its best results in years, including Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Magnificent Seven, Peter Rabbit, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Below is a short note from Christine regarding her departure:

“The transformation of the Columbia Pictures marketing department has been one of the most rewarding chapters of my career. I’m very proud of the team and I’m incredibly grateful to Tom Rothman and Josh Greenstein for supporting my vision. Now, I’m ready for a new challenge.”

Christine’s direct reports will report to Andre Caraco, Co-President of Domestic Marketing, on an interim basis.

Please join me in thanking Christine for her hard work and dedication to Sony Pictures, and in wishing her all the best in the next chapter of her career.

Josh

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Sony Sale Speculation Returns – But Can Japan Let Go of Reborn Studio?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Buzz about the possible sale of Sony Entertainment resurfaced this week after news of their major leadership changes  — but the Japanese company won’t likely catch the media consolidation fever gripping Hollywood, industry experts told TheWrap.

Unlike recent splashy deals — AT&T scooping Time Warner, Disney swallowing most of Fox and the recombination of CBS and Viacom — Sony is likely to hold on to its content and distribution engines as its current CEO Kazuo Hirai steps down in April.

“It would be a slap in the face to sell this company right now. They just got back on their feet,” said one movie producer with several projects on the lot. Sony stock closed six points above average over sale speculation after Hirai announced his resignation.

Also Read: Viacom and CBS Are Seeking to Merge, Insiders Say (Exclusive)

Sony Entertainment has never looked better, especially after an almost insurmountable climb back from the studio’s 2014 hack. The cyberattack’s leak of personnel documents and executive emails scandalized the studio.

Hirai and his then-CEO Michael Lynton stabilized the company, installed Tom Rothman to run the motion picture group and did their best to maintain the success of its TV production business. Lynton was replaced last January by veteran executive Tony Vinciquerra, who seemed to have inherited a brand-new company.

After some devastating losses, Sony Pictures successfully remounted the Spider-Man franchise with the help of Marvel Films. New Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson franchise “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is defying expectations and nearing $850 million at the worldwide box office. Out of nowhere, Rothman also secured distribution rights to the next Quentin Tarantino film about the Manson murders.

“They’ve got a hit with ‘Jumaji,’ prestige with Tarantino, and Spider-Man is working again,” the producer said. “The cylinders are all firing.”

Sony Pictures posted $96 million in operating profit for its last quarter, starkly contrasting with the same period last year when the studio took a $920 million write-down.

Also Read: Massive Playstation Sales, ‘Jumanji’ Power Sony to Record-Setting Third Quarter

Two weeks ago, Vinciquerra himself said he had no interest in  a potential sale, but growth was a concern.

“If we don’t grow, we will be somebody’s purchase,” the executive said at January’s NATPE Conference in Miami. “I didn’t take the job to do it for a year and sell the company.”

That decision, however, now belongs to acting CFO and incoming CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, who in his succession announcement in Tokyo on Friday stressed “an urgent need for change” and that Sony’s “position in the global market is very different to where it was 20 years ago.”

But the very culture of Sony, according Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management CEO Ross Gerber, would prohibit any swift action.

“The number-one barrier to spinning off stuff or doing anything bold is that it’s a Japanese company. They care about different things than shareholder value … people keeping their jobs, for example. The minute you sell off a division, people are going to lose their jobs. It’s not that simple in Sony’s mind,” Gerber said.

Also Read: Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Steps Down

Not that it wouldn’t be smart.  Jason Squire, editor of “The Movie Business Book” and Associate Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, said that in selling, “Sony’s own exposure is reduced. Simply because the environment today for theatrical movies is increasingly intense and competitive. This is because Disney and Warner seems to be ahead of the pack.”

Squire said tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Netflix would be natural buyers, as all are still trying to find footing and infrastructure in show business. Gerber added that Apple already poached two top Sony Pictures Television executives last summer — Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg — so why not complete the set?

“Taking over Sony Pictures, if that was possible, it would be a great move for Apple because they would have more content to add onto Apple TV or whatever it wants to do with it. That’s the only player I see out there,” Gerber said.

There’s also the question of Sony Music — a profitable division that’s an artist developer, distributor and publishing entity in one. Purview of that company was removed from the Sony Entertainment CEO role after Lynton left, and handed to New York-based exec Ron Stringer.

After Hirai’s big news on Friday, Sony reported Q3 revenue of $23.6 billion. Sales jumped 11.5 percent from the same period last year, while its earnings spiked 1,400 percent year-over-year — and that’s not a typo — thanks to the Playstation 4 unit, music and content.

Umberto Gonzalez contributed to this report. 

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Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Steps Down

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Kaz Hirai, President and CEO of Sony since 2012, is resigning his post and will be replaced by Sony CFO Kenichiro Yoshida, the company announced Thursday night.

Yoshida will assume his new role effective April 1. Hirai will transition to a chairman emeritus position.

The 57-year-old Hirai presided over Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton in 2014, when the company suffered the worst cyberattack in U.S. corporate history — a hacking scandal that saw thousands of personnel records and damaging emails from executives released.

Also Read: Sony Pictures CEO Admits Need to Grow Studio Amid ‘Floodgates’ of Big Media Mergers

It’s unclear what immediate effect the leadership change will have on the company’s American assets — which were rumored to be up for sale last year, when Lynton stepped down and Tony Vinicquerra came on board to manage the film and TV groups.

Control of Sony Music was removed from the purview of the Sony Entertainment CEO role. That group is now managed by Rob Stringer, who recently assumed the job from longtime executive Doug Morris.

Sony has essentially rebounded after a long and troubled road back from the hack. Thanks to the blockbuster success of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” big-screen TV and video game sales the company posted $18.2 billion in earnings last quarter. Sony Pictures specifically posted a 140 percent gain year-over-year with $68 million in operating income.

The film unit is enjoying unexpected staying power with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” — a family franchise reboot that is currently at $340 million domestic after nine weeks in release. Sony Pictures, run by Tom Rothman, also baffled industry watchers by landing the new Quentin Tarantino film following the director’s separation from the disgraced Harvey Weinstein. The project surrounds the Manson Murders and will star Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio.

A spokesperson for Vinciquerra did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Also Read: Sony Pushes ‘Barbie’ Release Date to May 2020

In a statement, Sony said it was Hirai who proposed stepping down as CEO; Sony’s Board of Directors approved the plan at a meeting held earlier Thursday.

“Ever since my appointment as President and CEO in April 2012, I have stated that my mission is to ensure Sony continues to be a company that provides customers with kando – to move them emotionally – and inspires and fulfills their curiosity,” Hirai said in a statement. “To this end, I have dedicated myself to transforming the company and enhancing its profitability, and am very proud that now, in the third and final year of our current mid-range corporate plan, we are expecting to exceed our financial targets.”

“And,” Hirai’s statement continued, “it excites me to hear more and more people enthuse that Sony is back again. As the company approaches a crucial juncture, when we will embark on a new mid-range plan, I consider this to be the ideal time to pass the baton of leadership to new management, for the future of Sony and also for myself to embark on a new chapter in my life.”

Hirai also said in his statement that Yoshida “has supported me closely since returning to Sony in December 2013, contributing extensively beyond his remit as CFO and acting as valuable confidant and business partner, as we took on the challenge of transforming Sony together.”

“As Chairman, I will of course offer my full support to Mr. Yoshida and the new management team, and do all I can to facilitate a smooth transition and ensure their future success.” Hirai’s statement concluded.

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Leonardo DiCaprio in Talks to Headline Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Manson’ Film

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Leonardo DiCaprio will reunite with Quentin Tarantino and star in the filmmaker’s  Charles Manson themed film, an individual with knowledge of the project tells TheWrap.

The film will be DiCaprio’s first film since winning the Oscar for “The Revenant.”

The untitled film is set in Los Angeles in the 1960s and ’70s and is believed to involve the actress and model Sharon Tate, who was murdered by members of Charles Manson’s notorious “family” in 1969. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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The film will be released on August 9, 2019. Perhaps not coincidentally, August 9, 2019, will mark the 50th anniversary of Tate’s death.

The movie, which will be the first for Tarantino without his longtime producer-distributor Harvey Weinstein, does not yet have a cast. Tarantino will produce along with David Heyman and Shannon McIntosh. Georgia Kacandes will serve as executive producer.

Sony studio boss Tom Rothman, working with marketing and distribution president Josh Greenstein, beat out virtually every major studio (save Disney) for rights to the film, the ninth feature by the acclaimed director and his first since the 2015 Western “The Hateful Eight.”

Deadline first broke the news of Tarantino’s casting.

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How Ridley Scott, Dan Friedkin, Runner-Up Christopher Plummer & $10M Reshoot Ransomed Getty Kidnap Pic Back From Kevin Spacey Scandal Death Sentence

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Director Ridley Scott unveiled his new film All the Money in the World to press and for consideration by the Producers Guild over the weekend. By his estimate, that meant staging “200 interviews in the last two days, and seven screenings.” Scott said the film got as strong a reaction as it did when a wet print was shown the previous week to the Hollywood Foreign Press and elicited three Golden Globe nominations.
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Sony Pictures Wins Quentin Tarantino Film; Margot Robbie, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio Circling

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has won the derby to finance and distribute #9, the working title of Quentin Tarantino’s next film, sources said. The film is set in Los Angeles in the late ’60s and early ’70s, with Tarantino hoping hard that Margot Robbie will play the role of Sharon Tate. Just about every studio in town except Disney chased it, along with several financiers looking to fund the entire film, and mini-majors seeking domestic rights. The deal came after a long…

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’ PlayStation 4 Carry Sony to Monster Q2

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

PlayStation 4 games, big screen TVs and a Marvel superhero movie lifted entertainment and tech powerhouse Sony to a massive second quarter.

Late Monday Los Angeles time, Sony reported revenue of $18.2 billion and earnings of 92 cents a share for the three months ending September 30, which the company classifies as its fiscal second quarter. That was well ahead of the $16.7 billion in revenue and earnings of 4 cents a share Sony hauled in during the same period last year. Analysts had estimated the company would report $17.6 billion in revenue and earnings of 54 cents a share.

Sony’s video games division, whose operating income grew 188 percent year-over-year behind a surge in PlayStation 4 software sales, and home entertainment, which reported a 39 percent gain in operating income, led the way for the Japanese conglomerate. The company credited a shift in the product line of TVs to higher-value models for the improved performance of the home entertainment segment.

Also Read: Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins Jumps to Become Sony Pictures TV Chairman

And one quarter after Sony’s pictures division finished in the red — and despite a slow summer box office in general — the studio bounced back behind “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which went on to gross nearly $880 million worldwide after its July 7 release, and “Baby Driver,” another successful mid-year flick. The division earned $68 million in operating income, a 140 percent jump compared with the corresponding quarter last year.

However, Sony did lose its slate financing arrangement with Texas-based LStar Capital earlier this summer, as TheWrap exclusively reported. And even with the blowout success of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Sony currently ranks fifth out of all studios with 9.4 percent market share.

There have also been changes in its TV business. After losing Sony Pictures Television Presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to Apple in July, the studio tapped former Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins to become its TV chairman earlier this month. And also this past quarter, Sony picked up a majority stake in anime distributor Funimation in a deal that valued the company at about $150 million and gives Sony some of the genre’s most popular titles, including “Dragon Ball Z”, “Cowboy Bebop” and “My Hero Academia.”

Sony’s stock has dipped 5 percent over the last three months but remains up 39 percent year-to-date.

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‘Blade Runner 2049’: Will Strong Reviews, Ryan Gosling Push Sequel to Success?

Read on: Variety.

One of the most memorable moments at this year’s CinemaCon came on opening night when Sony Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Rothman debuted footage for “Blade Runner 2049” and said, “Netflix, my ass.” Six months later, domestic distributor Warner Bros., international distributor Sony and production company Alcon Entertainment are about to find out whether the […]

‘Blade Runner 2049’s Denis Villenueve In Talks For Sony’s Epic ‘Cleopatra’ Film

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: The first social media reviews around the world on Blade Runner 2049 are calling the film a sci-fi masterpiece. Now, its director Denis Villenueve is in discussions for one of Sony Pictures’ highest profile pictures. Deadline hears that Villenueve will re-develop to direct Cleopatra, the epic female empowerment story of one of history’s most complex heroines. Based on the bestselling Stacy Schiff biography that is being produced by Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal, Cl…

Why Sony, LStar Movie Finance Deal Fell Apart: Flops, ‘Ghostbusters’ and Feet on Desk (Exclusive)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The $200 million slate financing deal between Texas private equity fund Lone Star and Sony Pictures was killed by a string of flops, a dispute over “Ghostbusters” and a disastrous meeting in which studio boss Tom Rothman plunked his feet on the desk of Lone Star’s president, multiple individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

Lone Star subsidiary LStar Capital agreed on the multi-year slate finance deal with Sony in 2014, but after the departure of former Sony film chief Amy Pascal and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, the two sides began to develop a serious disconnect personally and financially. That has led to the dissolution of the fund just days before LStar was due to pony up eight figures for the studio’s “The Emoji Movie,” the individuals said.

The arrangement officially ends at midnight, but it has been dead in the water for days, TheWrap exclusively reported last week.

“Lone Star has been a great partner for several years and as anticipated, the deal has concluded — and on a high note,” a studio spokesperson told TheWrap in a statement. “The decision to part ways was mutual, and won’t impact the studio’s plans or our strong slate of upcoming films moving forward.” LStar did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Also Read: More Sony Drama! $200 Million Movie Financing Deal on Thin Ice (Exclusive)

Battered by a series of box office misfires, LStar began approaching other parties about three months ago to take over its financing arrangement with Sony — but found no takers. DMG Entertainment walked away last week although the Beverly Hills-based company may re-materialize if the terms of the deal change.

And with “Emoji” funding due by midnight tonight and the animated film due in theaters on July 28, time is quickly running out for Sony to line up a replacement backer, the individual said.

That insider said that LStar’s deal allowed the financier to fund projects picture by picture, which an individual close to the studio also confirmed was the case.

However, the first individual said that LStar could only opt out of financing two of the studio’s films during the run of the deal, and the financing company used its two get-out-of-jail-free cards early on — including on last year’s $144 million flop “Ghostbusters.”

Also Read: ‘Spider-Man’ Producer Amy Pascal on Exit From Top Sony Job: ‘I Never Wanted to Let It Go’

As a result, the company was forced to pony up for a string of box-office duds, including “The Brothers Grimsby,” “Life,” “Concussion” and last December’s “Passengers.”

Tuesday’s deadline to finance a 25 percent share of Sony’s $50 million “Emoji Movie” — an estimated $12.5 million check — is the official drop-dead moment for the financing deal. It’s unclear if LStar will pay any penalty for defaulting or how much it has already invested in studio films under the deal.

LStar was also committed to financing 25 percent of the $20 million reboot of “Flatliners” and three upcoming animated films: the $18 million holiday movie “The Star,” the $50 million Beatrix Potter adaptation “Peter Rabbit,” and the $65 million “Hotel Transylvania 3.”

An individual close to the studio told TheWrap that Sony was not counting on LStar’s funding, has other partnerships on “Flatliners” and “The Star,” and claims to be relieved not be giving away “pure profit” on “Hotel Transylvania 3.” The individual said the studio is pursuing options to help finance its future films, including deals for slates or individual titles.

Also Read: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’: How Big Box Office Debut Still Trailed Tobey Maguire’s Original

And while the individual close to the studio said LStar still wants to work with Sony despite the performance of its recent film slate, three others with knowledge of the deal disagree.

According to one insider, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Pictures Group Chairman Tom Rothman got off on the wrong foot — literally — with Lone Star President Sam Loughlin.

Rothman, who replaced Pascal as film chief in February 2015, visited Loughlin in his Dallas office about 18 months ago. “Went down there — totally disrespected Sam, put his feet up on [Loughlin’s] desk,” the individual said. “Horrible meeting.”

Another individual added, “There’s real animosity between the two sides.”

Also Read: ‘Spider-Man’ Producer Amy Pascal on Exit From Top Sony Job: ‘I Never Wanted to Let It Go’

The hostility wasn’t just about manners. Rothman fumed at LStar’s decision not to finance “Ghostbusters” and tried to push back using surefire hit “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as a hammer, according to two individuals with knowledge of the situation.

Ultimately, insiders said that LStar did retain an equity interest in the Marvel superhero revival, which is one of the studio’s rare box office hits: The $175 million reboot has earned $467 million worldwide in its first two weeks of release.

Since deciding to stop new investments, LStar has been shopping the library of its 25 percent equity stake in the dozens of films it financed. But given the poor box office performance of many of the films — and LStar’s lack of leverage — at least one insider expects it to sell at a significant discount.

By leaving the slate finance deal, LStar also will not be participating in some of Sony’s anticipated future hits, including “Spider-Man: Homecoming 2” and Tom Hardy’s “Venom.”

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Texas-based LStar Capital, a subsidiary of private equity company Lone Star Funds, has pulled the plug on its $200 million slate financing deal with Sony Pictures, multiple individuals with knowledge of the situation have told TheWrap.

LStar, which has been a financing partner on about 30 Sony films since closing its slate deal in 2014, has stopped making new contributions to the fund after suffering a series of box-office flops such as “The Brothers Grimsby,” “Concussion” and “Passengers,” according to one individual with knowledge of the situation.

It’s unclear how much the company has already invested in the fund and how much more was expected.

The withdrawal of new funding comes after LStar engaged advisers earlier this year to sell its Sony library to cover some of its losses on the 25 percent equity stake in the studio’s films, according to two individuals familiar with the move.

Also Read: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’: How Big Box Office Debut Still Trailed Tobey Maguire’s Original

The size of those losses is not known but insiders say the value of LStar’s Sony library has been diminished greatly in value — not great news for Sony, which owns the other 75 percent equity in the titles.

And no new investors have stepped up in the two months since the deal has been shopped, deterred in part by the absence from the fund of one of the studio’s rare box office hits — this month’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which LStar did not finance — according to another individual who said LStar’s fund has been one of the worst performing film-financing funds of all time.

LStar did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s requests for comment. Benjamin Waisbren, a Chicago attorney who brokered the LStar-Sony deal, also did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Sony declined to comment.

Also Read: What Does Sony $1 Billion Write-Down Mean?

Another individual familiar with the deal said LStar fulfills their 25 percent obligation on a per-film basis, and has until next week to onboard Sony’s next release “The Emoji Movie.”

The $50 million animated text icon project hits July 28, and Sony is not sweating the minority investment should it not come through, the insider said.

LStar pulled out of another Sony movie that disappointed at the box office, last summer’s disappointing big-budget reboot of “Ghostbusters.” The finance company’s most successful Sony film was the animated “Hotel Transylvania 2,” which reeled in $473 million worldwide in 2015.

Sony hasn’t been devoid of other hits — “Spider-Man: Homecoming” has grossed nearly $300 million worldwide since its July 7 release and the TriStar division’s “Baby Driver” has zoomed to $77 million globally on an estimated $24 million budget — but neither of those films were financed by LStar.

Also Read: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Spins $117 Million Opening Weekend

LStar’s move is a blow to Tom Rothman, who took over for Amy Pascal as chairman of Sony Pictures’ Motion Picture Group in February 2015 and has weathered a series of box office misfires. In January, the studio’s parent company took a $962 million write-down on its production and distribution unit.

“Rothman has a real problem,” a finance executive with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap. “Performance at the studio continues to be terrible under his leadership, and ‘Spider-Man’s’ recent success is attributed to Marvel, not Tom. No one wants to fund risk there, and LStar pulling the plug early is terribly embarrassing. Even worse, the debacle devalues the price someone would pay for Sony’s film unit, if it were for sale — something corporate executives in Japan are very concerned about.”

The studio’s other films in development include a live-action “Barbie” movie, Tom Hardy’s “Venom” and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” a sequel to 2011’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

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