In a move that can’t be called a surprise, but remains a major development, Sony has announced that Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment alongside Michael Lyton, will step down when her contract ends in March. Pascal has held the post since 2006, three years after assuming the role of chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Pictures Group. Pascal will remain attached to Sony, however, as the head of a production entity, part of what the New York Times describes as “a four-year production deal that will likely find her making some of Sony’s biggest planned films.”
How much of this move can be attributed to the recent cyber attack on Sony? A lot. Pascal’s been in the business since 1988, when she joined Columbia pictures and worked on films such as Groundhog Day and A League Of Their Own. After a two-year stint at Turner Pictures, she returned to Columbia as its president. Over the course of her career, she had great success with the Spider-Man and James Bond films, among other blockbusters, while remaining a favorite of serious filmmakers due to her support for projects like The Social Network and Zero Dark Thirty. Sony and Pascal’s fortunes had taken a downturn in recent years, but not the sort of downturn that necessarily leads to a regime change. The hack changed that by embarrassing the company as a whole and Pascal in particular, thanks to some indelicate remarks about various stars and some racially insensitive jokes about President Obama’s assumed viewing habits. That’s not the end of Pascal’s story, but it’s likely to be a big part of what people think about when they think of Pascal for years to come.
So what’s next? The move leaves both Sony and Pascal in unenviable positions, with the company still trying to find its footing and a 2014 that included hits like 22 Jump Street but also misfires like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the Robocop remake (to say nothing of what happened to The Interview). If anything, Pascal might benefit from being able to focus her energy on making a few great films without having to run a studio. It’s never easy to stop being the boss, though.