Amy Pascal steps down as Sony Pictures chief

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Amy Pascal will step down as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and head of the film studio, nearly three months after a massive hack hit the company and revealed embarrassing emails.

Pascal, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood and the force behind such critical and commercial hits as "The Social Network" and "American Hustle," will launch a major new production venture at the studio focused on movies, television and theater, Sony Pictures said Thursday. Her career with Sony has spanned nearly 20 years.

During the hack, Pascal came under fire for racist remarks about President Obama's presumed choice in movies that surfaced in leaked emails. She apologized for "insensitive and inappropriate" comments in her emails that she called "not an accurate reflection of who I am." Pascal also faced criticism for green-lighting the film that may have inspired the hacking to begin with: "The Interview," which starred Seth Rogen and James Franco as bumbling journalists on a mission to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The outcome was not surprising, and will benefit both sides, said Damian Thong, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities in Tokyo where Sony Corp. , the parent company of Sony Pictures, is based.

"She's a woman of many talents. She has great relationships that are valuable to Sony in the future, and she will still have Sony funding and the freedom to make films and to build on her many years of experience," he said.

Pascal will shift to the new venture in May. Sony Pictures will finance Pascal under a four-year contract and retain all distribution rights worldwide to films it funds. The venture will be located at the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, California.

"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 Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton in a statement.

"In recent months, SPE faced some unprecedented challenges, and I am grateful for Amy's resilience and grace during this period."

Since Pascal has led the studio, Sony Pictures has amassed over $46 billion in global theatrical box office revenue and 315 academy award nominations. Some of the films Pascal shepherded include the last three James Bond films, "The Da Vinci Code," ''Adaptation," ''Eat Pray Love," ''The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," ''Moneyball," and "Zero Dark Thirty."

"I have always wanted to be a producer. 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," Pascal said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Sony upgraded its sales forecast for its pictures business in the fiscal year ending in March by about 3.5 percent to 890 billion yen ($7.6 billion). But it expects operating profit to fall by about 4 percent thanks to $15 million in costs from investigating the cyberattack and fixing problems it caused.

Most of the costs associated with the hack will be covered by insurance, the company said.

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