Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. (Sony Pictures or SPE) is an American entertainment company 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 wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese multinational technology and media conglomerate Sony Corporation. Based in Culver City, California, it encompasses Sony’s motion picture, television production and distribution units. Its group sales in the fiscal year 2017 (April 2017 – March 2018) has been reported to be $9.133 billion.
SPE is a member of the Big Five and the Motion Picture Association (MPA).
Some of Sony Pictures’ film franchises include The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Jumanji, Stuart Little, Men in Black, Underworld, Sony’s Marvel Universe, Robert Langdon, The Smurfs (via Peyo), Sniper, Hotel Transylvania, Bad Boys, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Charlie’s Angels.
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 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%. A new company was formed in early 1988 with the Tri-Star name to take over the studio’s operations.
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 Delaware 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.
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-1986 original MGM library ended up at Warner Bros. via the Ted Turner-Kirk Kerkovian “Turner Entertainment Company” transactions. The post-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.
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 in 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.
As a result of reevaluating the assets of the motion pictures and television productions businesses (capitalized film costs, including the value of the film library mostly recorded at the 1989 acquisition of CPE), Sony recorded a $962 million non-cash goodwill impairment charge in SPE in the third quarter of 2016.
On July 3, 2018, Sony accidentally uploaded the film Khali the Killer on YouTube in its entirety. The film stayed up for several hours before being removed.
In November 2019, Sony purchased the remaining 42% stake in GSN from AT&T, placing it under the direction of its television division.
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