The latter end of 2014 saw Sony Pictures Entertainment making headlines for all the wrong reasons, as Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen's comedy action film The Interview made the studio a target for a group of hackers who quickly obtained millions of documents - from private e-mails to scripts for major upcoming films - and disseminated many of them on the internet for anyone to read. The attack later escalated into terror threats against theaters preparing to screen The Interview, and the film was eventually released online.
Among the many facets of the scandal was a controversy over e-mails sent between Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, in which the two discussed an upcoming encounter between Pascal and President Barack Obama and casually suggested films that he might like, including 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Think Like a Man and Django Unchained. Needless to say, the quotes from the e-mails didn't look at all good when published in tabloids and on news sites and blogs.
In a decision that may well have been prompted by the hacking scandal, Pascal has announced that she would be stepping down from her co-chairman position at Sony and moving on to a new production venture, as of May 2015. As part of a four-year deal, Sony will provide financial backing to Pascal's upcoming projects, which will encompass film, television and theater.
It's very likely that there's more to the move than what the official word suggests, but as the hacking attacks have subsided there's little more than speculation to be found regarding what's going on behind the closed doors at Sony. Here's Pascal's statement in full, courtesy of THR:
"I have spent almost my entire professional life at Sony Pictures and I am energized to be starting this new chapter based at the company I call home. I have always wanted to be a producer. [Sony Entertainment CEO] Michael [Lynton] and I have been talking about this transition for quite some time, and I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to pursue my long-held dream and for providing unparalleled support. As the slate for the next two years has come together, it felt like the right time to transition into this new role. I am so grateful to my team, some of whom I have worked with for the last 20 years and others who have joined more recently. I am leaving the studio in great hands. I am so proud of what we have all done together and I look forward to a whole lot more."
Pascal's current deal with Sony expires in March; and while there's no official word yet as to who will be replacing her, Variety has suggested some likely candidates based on the current Sony executives who have the kind of experience needed for the role. Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad is named as one of the most likely replacements, due to his popularity at Sony and his talent for managing finances. TriStar Pictures head Tom Rothman is another potential candidate for the role, since he was previously the co-chairman and CEO of Fox.
As to what effect this will have on Sony's currently-in-flux plans for some of its biggest cashcows - properties such as Spider-Man and Men in Black, among others - that, of course, remains to be seen...