|Formerly||Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc. (1987–1991)|
|Founded||December 21, 1987 as Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc.|
August 7, 1991 as Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
|Founder||The Coca-Cola Company|
|Revenue||US$7.097 billion (FY2020)|
|US$753 million (FY2020)|
|Owner||Sony Group Corporation|
Number of employees
|9,500 (2019 )|
|Footnotes / references|
Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. (commonly known as Sony Pictures or SPE, and formerly known as Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc.) is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment studio conglomerate that produces, acquires, and distributes filmed entertainment (theatrical motion pictures, television programs, and recorded videos) through multiple platforms.
Through an intermediate holding company called Sony Film Holding Inc., it is operated as a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., which is itself a subsidiary of the multinational technology and media conglomerate Sony Group Corporation. Based at the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California as one of the "Big Five" major American film studios, it encompasses Sony's motion picture, television production and distribution units. Its sales in the fiscal year 2020 (April 2020 – March 2021) was reported to be $7.16 billion. SPE is a member of the Motion Picture Association (MPA). Sony's film franchises include The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Jumanji, Men in Black, and Sony's Spider-Man Universe.
On September 1, 1987, The Coca-Cola Company announced plans to spin off its assets of Columbia Pictures, which it had owned since 1982. Under this arrangement, Coca-Cola would sell its entertainment assets (a.k.a. Coca-Cola's Entertainment Business Sector) to TriStar Pictures, of which it owned 39.6%. Tri-Star would be renamed as Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc. (CPE), with Coca-Cola owning 49%, its shareholders owning 31%, and Tri-Star's shareholders owning 20%. As part of a merger plan, the two television business, comprising Columbia/Embassy Television and Tri-Star Television, merged altogether to form a new incarnation of the original Columbia Pictures Television.
The merger enabled three top Tri-Star executives, namely Arnold Messner, who ran Tri-Star Telecommunications, Victor A. Kaufman, who ran the main Tri-Star Pictures studio, and Scott Siegler, who ran Tri-Star Television to stay on, while four of the Coca-Cola Entertainment Business Sector had departed, namely Barbara Corday, who ran Columbia/Embassy Television as president, Herman Rush and Peter Seale, who ran Coca-Cola Telecommunications and Brian McGrath, who was the president of the Coca-Cola Entertainment Business Sector. In early December 1987, former Coke EBS vice president Kenneth Lemberger had exited the post to join Tri-Star Pictures, displacing Roger Faxon, who had joined Columbia Pictures as senior vice president of the studio.
The merger was approved by shareholders on December 15, 1987, and it was completed two days later, and that the Columbia and Tri-Star brands would be used as separate and autonomous production entities, and are part of CPE whole, along with the prior assets, units and commitments of the former Coca-Cola Entertainment Business Sector, which included all feature, TV, home video, pay cable operations, the Entertainment Sector's feature production deal with Nelson Entertainment and its ties with an investment in Castle Rock Entertainment, and TeleVentures, a company continues to own, which was linked to three independent companies Tri-Star Television, Stephen J. Cannell Productions and Witt/Thomas Productions, and Merv Griffin Enterprises continue to function as a separate operation. A new company was formed in early 1988 with the Tri-Star name to take over the studio's operations.
In early January 1988, CPE announced that they would revive the Triumph branding for the new worldwide subsidiary, Triumph Releasing Corporation, which was functioned as a theatrical distributor, marketing and promotion for Columbia and Tri-Star films, and named Patrick N. Williamson as president of the unit and the company provided administrative services related to distribution of its films in North America, while internationally, would be responsible for the direction of each studio.
On September 28, 1989, Sony obtained an option to purchase all of The Coca-Cola Company's stock (approximately 54 million shares or 49% of the outstanding shares) in CPE for $27 per share. The next day, Sony also announced that it reached an agreement with Guber-Peters Entertainment Company, Inc. (NASDAQ: GPEC; formerly Barris Industries, Inc.) to acquire CPE for $200 million when Sony hired Peter Guber and Jon Peters to be its co-chairmen. This was all led by Norio Ohga, who was the president and CEO of Sony during that time.
The hiring of Guber and Peters by Sony to run Columbia was conflicted by a previous contract the producers had signed at Warner Bros. Time Warner's chairman, Steve Ross, threatened Sony with a lawsuit for breach of contract. The lawsuit would be subsequently dropped when Sony sold half-interest in Columbia House and cable distribution rights to Columbia's feature films, TV movies, and miniseries to Warner Bros. That same agreement also saw Columbia sell its 35% interest in the Burbank Studios and acquired Lorimar Studios, previously the MGM lot, from Warner Bros.
On October 31, 1989, Sony completed a friendly takeover bid for the rest of shares (51%) of CPE, which was a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: KPE), and acquired 99.3% of the common stock of the company. On November 8, 1989, Sony completed the acquisition by a "short-form" merger of its wholly owned subsidiary Sony Columbia Acquisition Corporation into CPE under the Delaware General Corporation Law. Sony also completed a tender offer for shares of common stock of the Guber-Peters Entertainment Company on November 6, 1989, and acquired the company 3 days later. The acquisition cost Sony $4.9 billion ($3.55 billion for shares and $1.4 billion of long-term debt) and was backed (financed) by five major Japanese banks Mitsui, Tokyo, Fuji, Mitsubishi and Industrial Bank of Japan. The company was renamed as Sony Pictures Entertainment on August 7, 1991. Also that year, Jon Peters left Columbia to start Peters Entertainment with a three-year exclusive production agreement at the studio at first, before transitioning to a non-exclusive deal at the studio. Longtime CPE employee Laurie MacDonald also left to start Aerial Pictures at the studio, first for a two-year deal, before going to 20th Century Fox in 1993, and being swallowed up by Amblin Entertainment later that year, eventually setting up DreamWorks.
Sony has since created numerous other film production and distribution units, such as creating Sony Pictures Classics for art-house fare, by forming Columbia TriStar Pictures (also known as the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group) by merging Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures in 1998, revitalizing Columbia's former television division Screen Gems. It expanded its operations on April 8, 2005, when a Sony-led consortium acquired the legendary Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in a US$4.8 billion leveraged buyout, through the holding company MGM Holdings Inc.
This in effect re-united the MGM studio name, with the MGM main studio lot, although somewhat confusingly, the bulk of the pre-May 1986 original MGM library ended up at Time Warner via the Ted Turner-Kirk Kerkorian "Turner Entertainment Co." transactions. The post-April 1986 MGM library consists of acquisitions of various third-party libraries, such as the Orion Pictures catalogue, leading to MGM's 2014 remake of RoboCop.
In July 2000, a marketing executive working for Sony Corporation created a fictitious film critic, David Manning, who gave consistently good reviews for releases from Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures that generally received poor reviews amongst real critics. Sony later pulled the ads, suspended Manning's creator and his supervisor and paid fines to the state of Connecticut and to fans who saw the reviewed films in the US.
On June 4, 2008, SPE's wholly owned group 2JS Productions B.V. acquired Dutch production company 2waytraffic N.V., famous for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, acquired from the original production company Celador, and You Are What You Eat for £114.3 million ($223.2 million in US dollars).
In 2011, the Sony Pictures computer network was breached and approximately one million user accounts associated with the SonyPictures.com website were leaked.
On November 18, 2012, Sony Pictures announced it has passed $4 billion with the success of releases: Skyfall, The Amazing Spider-Man, 21 Jump Street, Men in Black 3, Hotel Transylvania, Underworld: Awakening, The Vow, and Resident Evil: Retribution. On November 21, 2013, SPE and Sony Entertainment's CEO Michael Lynton announced that SPE will shift emphasis from movies to television by cutting its 2014 film slate. It was also announced on the same day, that there will be more Spider-Man sequels and spin-offs, though on February 10, 2015, Sony Pictures eventually signed a deal with Disney's Marvel Studios to allow Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with Captain America: Civil War, before appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming which was released on July 7, 2017. The deal also allowed Sony to distribute and have creative control on any MCU film where Spider-Man is the main character (such as Homecoming and its sequel Spider-Man: Far From Home), while Disney will distribute MCU films where Spider-Man appears without being the main character.
On January 22, 2014, SPE folded its technology unit into the various cores of its businesses. In April, Sony Pictures arranged a film financing deal worth $200 million with LStar Capital, the credit venture of Lone Star Capital and Citibank, half in debt and the other in equity to fund most of SPE's film slate for several years. SPE was originally considering a $300 million deal with Blue Anchor Entertainment, led by Bloom Hergott partner John LaViolette and former investment banker & producer Joseph M. Singer, and backed by Longhorn Capital Management and Deutsche Bank, which was held up by regulatory matters.
In November 2019, Sony purchased the remaining 42% stake in GSN from AT&T, placing it under the direction of its television division.
In April 2021, Sony signed a first-look deal with Netflix, allowing the streaming service to host their films following their theatrical runs and home media releases. That same month, the company also entered into a multi-year licensing agreement with The Walt Disney Company for its films to stream across Disney's streaming and linear platforms, including Disney+ and Hulu.
In February 2022, Sony signed a deal with WarnerMedia Europe to stream its theatrical films on HBO Max for Central and Eastern Europe countries.
Main article: Sony Pictures hack
In November 2014, the Sony Pictures computer network was compromised by a group of hackers named Guardians of Peace, disabling many computers. Later the same week, five of Sony Pictures' movies were leaked, including some not yet released (such as Fury and Annie), as well as confidential data about 47,000 current and former Sony employees. Film historian Wheeler Winston Dixon suggested that the hack, which exposed the inner workings of the studio, was "not a pretty picture," and served as a "wake-up call to the entire industry." The hack also revealed some other documents, emails between Hollywood moguls referring to Barack Obama's cinematic tastes, a possible partnership with Marvel Studios for the inclusion of the superhero Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, which was later confirmed in February 2015, amongst others. On December 16, the hackers issued a warning to moviegoers, threatening to attack anyone who sees The Interview during the holidays and urging people to "remember the 11th of September 2001". On December 17, 2014, Sony cancelled the previously planned December 25 release of The Interview in response to hacker threats.
On February 24, 2015, Tom Rothman was named chairman of SPE's motion picture group to replace Amy Pascal.
On April 16, 2015, WikiLeaks published over 30,287 documents, 173,132 e-mails, and 2,200 corporate e-mail addresses of Sony Pictures' employees. WikiLeaks said in a press release that the content of the leaks were "newsworthy and at the center of a geo-political conflict" and belonged "in the public domain". Sony Pictures later condemned the hack and subsequent leaks, calling it a "malicious criminal act", while also criticizing WikiLeaks for describing the leaked content as public domain.
Seth Rogen has expressed doubts about North Korea being responsible for the 2014 Sony hack. Based on the timeline of events and the amount of information hacked, he believes the hack may have been conducted by a Sony employee.
Headquartered in Culver City, California, U.S., SPE comprises various studios and entertainment brands, including Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures and GSN.
The following are other Sony Pictures divisions that are not subsidiaries of the California-based Sony Pictures Entertainment, but are instead subsidiaries of the main Tokyo-based Sony Corporation.