Tom Rothman on new TriStar venture: 'My job is to make hits'

TriStar  -- with its winged horse logo -- has been grounded as of late. Founded three decades ago, TriStar Pictures was once known for blockbusters and critical darlings such as “Total Recall” and “Jerry Maguire," but lately it hasn't had many major big-budget releases. 

Now Tom Rothman, the film executive who was recently ousted from 20th Century Fox, is teaming up with Sony Pictures Entertainment on a new joint venture, called TriStar Productions, to increase the company's output of movies and TV shows.

“We’re going to be lean and mean and efficient, and my job is to make hits,” Rothman said. “That’s my day-to-day and my night-to-night. I hope that this can become a really vibrant part of the Sony family.”

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TriStar will develop, finance and produce films and television programming, and Sony Pictures will provide its own financing and keep distribution rights.

Sony Pictures, which unveiled the venture Thursday, said TriStar will produce up to four movies a year. Rothman is to be the chairman of the new entity, which is set to start in September, and he will have an undisclosed stake in TriStar.

Rothman will report to Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Entertainment, and Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment. 

Last year he was forced out as CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment after 18 years and a track record at the studio that included the massive hits "Avatar" and "Titanic," both directed by James Cameron.

Since leaving Fox, Rothman worked with Steven Spielberg on the science fiction "Robopocalypse" until that project was put to the side. 

Pascal and Lynton initiated talks for the new venture, said Rothman, who worked with Pascal at Columbia in the late 1980s. “I think the world of them," he said. "Amy and I had offices side by side at Columbia when Columbia was in Burbank, and I’ve always admired her.”

Major hits for TriStar include the original “Basic Instinct," “The Natural,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Glory.” The company was known as a filmmaker-friendly studio, and it was the home for Woody Allen during his “Husbands and Wives” and “Manhattan Murder Mystery” period.  

It is hoping for another hit with the upcoming film "Elysium," which will be released under the TriStar banner. Rothman said TriStar will add to Sony's film and TV offerings. 

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“We will plow in fields where Columbia and Screen Gems, etc., aren’t focused as much," he said. "We’re not going to compete with or take away with anything those labels are doing right now.”

This deal comes after after Tokyo-based Sony Corp. said Wednesday that it swung to a profit for its first fiscal quarter of the year. Sony Pictures posted operating income of $38 million. The division recorded an operating loss of $62 million in last year's first quarter.

Still, it was hurt by lower theatrical revenue in part because of the disappointing performance of the Will Smith film "After Earth." Activist investor activist Daniel Loeb, the CEO of hedge fund Third Point, has called for the company to spin off Sony Entertainment Inc., which includes the film division. 

Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported Wednesday that Sony's board is expected to reject Loeb's proposal. Sony has said it is reviewing the proposal and would not comment on the report. 


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