Sony Entertainment Touts Financial Discipline, Announces Reduced Film Slate

Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Corporation of America and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Michael Lynton also lauds the studio's work with big-name talent, such as Will Smith and Adam Sandler, while Amy Pascal says the firm is reducing its number of summer movies next year from nine to four after this year's crowded tentpole summer.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton on Thursday told an investor day focused on the conglomerate's entertainment operations that his team has in recent years implemented a more onerous greenlighting process and been tougher on producer deals and touted continued growth in the TV production business.

And Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, said Sony is further trimming its slate, including plans to release four movies next summer rather than nine this year amid this summer's crowded tentpole schedule.

She cited a refined greenlighting process, which includes a lower number of movies a year of currently around 20, which will be around 18 going further.

"We take a hard look at talent deals, which have been reformed in recent years," he said in the LA presentation. He added that Sony these days looks to keep shooting days to a minimum and "get most out of tax incentives," among other initiatives. "We are proud of our record of financial responsibility," but not satisfied yet.

"We must continuously study and learn from our misses," he said about recent box office failures.

He also touted a just-announced plan to cut $100 million in annual costs with the help of consulting firm Bain & Co.

Lynton also lauded the film and TV studio's "ownership by one of the world's most innovative electronics companies."

Columbia Pictures is "still the workhorse" at Sony Pictures, Lynton said, but also touted other successful labels, such as Screen Gems, Tristar, Sony Pictures Classics and Sony Pictures Animation.

He also highlighted strong talent relationships with the likes of Will Smith, Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, Justin Timberlake, Katherine Bigelow, as well as such franchises as Spider-Man.

Addressing relationships with stars, he said: "This is not about giving talent perks," but fostering an environment where a wide variety of creative visions are nurtured.

Lynton mentioned that even big names must meet Sony's standards for profitability. As examples, he said the studio has at times been telling actors "we won't make film in a city of their choice," he said. And the studio is "putting directors on the financial hook" for budget overruns.

Discussing the TV production business, Lynton said growth in original programming and international markets have boosted that business.

Lynton followed comments from Sony Corp. CEO Kaz Hirai. After Lynton, Pascal took the stage.

She touted the more than $3.2 billion in global box office that the Spider-Man franchise has made and 
touted Columbia's 
success in R-rated comedies for mostly the U.S. market and critically acclaimed dramas that travel, such as Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty.

Spending has been reduced by 50 percent from its peak seven years ago, she said.

"Recognizing an increasingly crowded summer, we reduced our number of movies for next summer from nine this summer to four next summer," Pascal also said, adding the company will continue to optimize its slate.

She also showed a clip from The Amazing Spider Man 2.

Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television, kicked off his presentation by saying: "Right now, we are in the golden age of television, and the possibilities are limitless. He said the firm is scaling up its TV business significantly.

Breaking Bad is now expected to bring in 10 times what the company forecast it would make, executives also said Thursday. Spin-off Better Call Saul will be profitable from day one, they said.

This article was first published by The Hollywood Reporter