Sony Pictures Entertainment is the US-based film, television and video arm of Sony Corporation. Founded in 1989 following the acquisition of storied Columbia Pictures, the business was initially an expensive mistake for the Japanese electronics company, but finally began to hit its stride in the late 1990s. Key to its rebound were the first Spider-man movie trilogy, as well as a non-exclusive partnership with star Will Smith, who has given Sony no less than seven of its most successful films of all time. Between 2004 and 2010, it was a leading member of the consortium which acquired control of legendary studio MGM for around $5.0bn, although that company continued to operate entirely separately from Sony. Following the subsequent break-up of MGM, Sony retained rights to the James Bond franchise (until 2015). 'Skyfall' in 2012 became the studio's most successful release of all time (until recently) with a global gross of $1.11bn. In fact, performance had been generally first-rate until a series of underperforming releases in 2013, followed by a devastating cyber-attack the following year. The leak of thousands of private internal emails soured the studio's relationship with several major stars and directors and caused immense disruption. Recovery was slow, but a re-boot of the 'Spider-man' series proved a big hit with audiences, and a relaunch of the 'Jumanji' franchise in 2018 was even more successful. Sony's biggest hits in 2019 were 'Spider-man: Far From Home' (which finally surpassed 'Skyfall' with global takings of $1.13bn) and 'Jumanji: The Next Level' ($616m and counting). Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon A Time.... in Hollywood' was also a big critical and commercial success ($372m worldwide). However, an attempt to relaunch the 'Men in Black' franchise without Will Smith was a major flop; so was a 'Charlie's Angels' re-boot. The group is centred around the Columbia Pictures, and Sony Pictures Television divisions. The latter is a major producer of network and cable TV series. Major past successes include dramas 'Breaking Bad'/'Better Call Saul', 'The Blacklist' and 'The Good Doctor', comedy 'The Goldbergs', reality series 'Shark Tank', long-running game shows 'Wheel of Fortune' and 'Jeopardy', and soap operas 'The Young & The Restless' and 'Days Of Our Lives'. Sony also has interests in numerous specialist interest cable channels, satellite distribution platforms and co-production arrangements worldwide. Tony Vinciquerra is group chairman & CEO.
Capsule checked 9th January 2020
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Historical profile information for Sony Pictures
Adbrands Daily Update 19th Nov 2019: Sony moved back into US cable broadcasting with the reacquisition of the 42% of shares it didn't already own in Game Show Network, the cable strand that specialises in classic quiz shows like Family Feud, Deal Or No Deal and Wheel Of Fortune. The vendor is AT&T, which had inherited the channel as part of DirecTV. Sony's deal values the channel at just over $900m. Sony is paying AT&T $380m, and the communications group also gets to keep $120m of cash GSN has in hand, for a total windfall of $500m. Sony originally launched the channel in 1994, but later sold a 50% stake in the business to John Malone's Liberty Media, though it retained management control. This stake was later transferred to DirecTV, which subsequently agreed to sell back small additional shareholdings to Sony prior to the latest deal.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Apr 2018: Disney/Marvel's Black Panther was finally toppled last week as the #1 movie in the US (by Pacific Rim: Uprising) after an extraordinary five week run, but it has nonetheless completely dominated the box office for the first quarter of 2018, with takings in excess of $650m. It became the 5th highest grossing movie of all-time in the US in the space of just 31 days, and is likely to reach the #3 spot before the end of this month. Similarly, Sony's Jumanji sequel - released late last December - enjoyed almost as strong a hold over January, reigning as the #1 for four out of the first five weeks of 2018 to accumulate a total gross of over $403m. The dominance of both movies illustrates an alarming dilemma facing movie studios. The next most popular release, Peter Rabbit, has grossed just $110m, and only one other - Fifty Shades Freed - broke $100m.
Ticket sales are increasingly concentrated among just a handful of ultra-successful releases, while other movies struggle to find any audience at all. According to researcher comScore, in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the top 10 movies of the year raked in between 32% and 35% of total box office. Previously, that figure had never exceeded 30%. For the first quarter of 2018, the equivalent figure is 58%, and that's excluding Jumanji, officially a hold-over from 2017. In reality, Black Panther and Jumanji alone accounted for over a third of total box office since 29th Dec. As the WSJ pointed out, "With the rapidly growing high-quality television options and more original movies available to watch at home on streaming services, it is harder to draw people to movie theatres. Because people no longer need to go to theatres to find something good to see, they are more likely to be drawn when a movie becomes a cultural phenomenon, like 'Black Panther' or last year’s horror sensation 'It'."
Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Jan 2018: After years of under-performance, Sony Pictures finds itself in the unfamiliar position of being the most successful movie studio of the year to-date. Admittedly it's still only January, but Sony's Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle movie is the undisputed champion of the first three weeks of the year, outgrossing even Disney's mammoth Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Released towards the end of December, Jumanji became the #1 movie in the first week of the year and has retained that position ever since. According to industry watcher BoxOfficeMojo, Jumanji grossed $147m in the US in the first three weeks of January (and millions more internationally), compared to $87m for Jedi.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th May 2017: Sony named former Fox TV networks chief Tony Vinciquerra as the new chairman & CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, its film and TV division. He replaces Michael Lynton, who announced plans to step down several months ago to focus on his role as chairman of Snap Inc.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Jan 2017: Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton announced plans to step down by mid-year to focus on his non-executive role as chairman of Snap Inc, the parent entity for social media service Snapchat. That company is expected to issue an IPO within the next few months. Lynton has led Sony Pictures since 2004, guiding it through the turbulence of the devastating 2014 cyberhack which leaked millions of private emails into the public domain. Under his command, Sony was twice the top grossing studio in the US, in 2006 and 2012. He is also co-CEO of parent entity Sony Entertainment, which also houses Sony Music. A successor will be appointed in due course.
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