Embattled Sony studio chief Amy Pascal is stepping down from her role after enduring a long winter at the center of a firestorm over the Internet hack on Sony’s infrastructure.
Pascal, 56, has been one of Hollywood’s longest running studio chiefs and has been known for being an ally for creative talent on the lot. But her willingness to work closely with filmmakers became problematic this past year as Seth Rogen’s North Korean assassination movie The Interview neared its Christmas release date. Nefarious forces—whether there were links to North Korea or not has yet to be determined—objected to the film’s depiction of the assassination of the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, and a full-blown hack on Sony’s computer systems followed. Pascal’s acquiescence to Rogen and producing partner Evan Goldberg’s demand that the subject of the assassination be the actual sitting ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, may have been linked, then, to the release of thousands of Sony employees’ personal information including Social Security numbers and salaries plus a slew of confidential emails between studio executives—some of which were particularly damning to Pascal and her reputation.
Now the executive, who has been with the studio since 1988, will transition into a four-year production deal on the lot, one focused on the release of movies, television and theater, that Sony will finance and distribute.
“I have spent almost my entire profession life at Sony Pictures and I am energized to be starting this new chapter based at the company I call home,” said Pascal in a statement. “As the slate for the next two years has come together, it felt like the right time to transition into this new role.”
It’s not clear who the studio will tap as a replacement, though it’s likely that will happen quickly.
“The studio’s legacy is due in large part to Amy’s passion for storytelling and love of this industry. I am delighted that Amy will be continuing her association with SPE through this new venture, which capitalizes on her extraordinary talents, ” said Michel Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, in a statement. “In recent months SPE faced some unprecedented challenges, and I am grateful for Amy’s resilience and grace during this period.”
In recent years Sony Pictures, who under Pascal’s tutelage released such hits as the Spider-Man franchise, 21 Jump Street, and The Social Network, has been grappling to maintain profitability with under-performing films such as White House Down and After Earth hurting the company’s bottom line. The studio has also been battling activist investor Alan Loeb, who called for a corporate restructuring of the company to deal with its sagging profits. As such, many high-level executives have been dismissed as a result, but Pascal, who greenlit the films, held onto her job. That seemed to be untenable once the Sony hack hit the national stage and leaked corporate emails forced Pascal to apologize to high-level talent such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt. Pascal also had to make amends with the black community—an effort that included phone calls with Al Sharpton—after a racist exchange she had with producer Scott Rudin was revealed in the hacked emails.