Saturday, April 13, 2024

Sony’s “Elysium” Release Could Be Strike Three for Embattled Execs


“Elysium” is here. The Neill Blomkamp sci-fi release premiered last night in New York. If you love sci-fi, you’re going to love this intensely stylized movie starring Matt Damon in his most physical role yet. Will it do well? The jury is out. But if “Elysium” is considered a failure, this may spell serious trouble for Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton. They’ve had a bad summer with “After Earth” and “White House Down.”

Normally, it wouldn’t matter. But two days ago rebel stockholder Daniel Loeb of Third Point investors issued another one of his veiled threats against Pascal and Lynton. He wrote: “We find it perplexing that [Sony CEO] Mr. Hirai does not worry about a division that has just released 2013’s versions of Waterworld and Ishtar back  to back, instead giving free passes to Sony Pictures Entertainment Co  CEO’s Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, the executives responsible for these debacles…”

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Loeb is short sighted, and all these pot-shots aren’t going to help. Studio chiefs don’t grow on trees. Pascal and Lynton have had a momentary lapse, but they will be back. Studio success is about the big picture and long term planning, not one bad season. It was less than a year ago that Sony proudly had “Skyfall” and “Zero Dark Thirty” as major hits. And maybe what Loeb doesn’t realize is: it’s all a crap shoot.

Sony/Columbia have big hits coming, like Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” George Clooney directing “Monuments Men,” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” all heading to box office gold and Oscar nominations. Plus, “Amazing Spider Man 2” comes next spring. When Loeb is sitting in the Dolby Theater next March, seeing Sony nominees on the stage, he may be singing a different tune. Patience.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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