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Sony Pictures executive Jeff Blake departing company after 22 years

Sony Pictures Entertainment Vice Chairman Jeff Blake is departing the company after 22 years.
Jeff Blake also serves as the studio's chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution.
The studio, a unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp., did not name a successor to Jeff Blake.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Vice Chairman Jeff Blake is departing the company after 22 years, making him the latest notable executive to leave the studio in the last year.

Blake, 61, serves as the studio's chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution. His exit is effective Aug. 1, Sony Pictures said in a statement Tuesday morning.

The studio, a unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp., did not name a successor for Blake, who led the studio's marketing campaigns for its five recent "Spider-Man" films, including this year's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

That film has grossed more than $700 million worldwide, but has not performed as well as the studio's four previous "Spider-Man" films. The company's most recent offering, "Sex Tape," fared poorly when it debuted last weekend. The Cameron Diaz-starring picture, which cost an estimated $40 million to produce, took in $14.6 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Sony Pictures -- which includes Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics and other entities -- has shaken up its executive ranks in recent months as it embarks on a cost-cutting initiative meant to trim at least $350 million in overheard.

In September, the company fired Marc Weinstock, then its head of domestic and international marketing. Steve Elzer, senior vice president of media relations, was let go in December.

In January, the studio laid off Chris Cookson, then its president of Sony Pictures Technologies. Dave Bishop, the studio's president of home entertainment, left in March after his contract was not renewed

Sony Pictures outlined its plan to rein in spending at an investors conference held at the studio's Culver City headquarters in November. Last year, Sony Pictures, which is headed by Chairman Michael Lynton and Co-Chairman Amy Pascal, released a handful of high-profile films that performed poorly at the box office. Among those were the Channing Tatum-starring action picture "White House Down."

“Some of our movies just didn't perform as we had estimated,” Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai told investors at the conference. “And we recognized that we must do better.”

Blake began his tenure at Sony in 1992 after previous stints at Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Co. He became president of Sony Pictures Releasing two years after joining the company.

“I have had a great 22 years here at Sony Pictures and have worked for and with some amazing people,” Blake said in a statement. “I have tremendous respect for Michael [Lynton] and Amy [Pascal], and I wish them and the great team at Sony nothing but the best.” 

He has been vice chairman since 2002 and chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution since 2005. 

"Jeff has had a unique ability to positively impact nearly everyone at the company," Lynton said in a statement. "We will miss him and wish him the best in the future.” 

Though Sony Pictures has had several high-profile departures in the last year, it has also brought on two key executives and promoted another.

In August, Sony partnered with former Fox Filmed Entertainment Co-Chairman Tom Rothman to restart its TriStar Productions banner. In December, the studio named "Moneyball" producer Michael De Luca co-head of production of its Columbia unit.

Last week, Columbia Pictures President Doug Belgrad was named president of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, a newly created position that gives him oversight of the studio's various production banners.

In addition to the recent "Spider-Man" film, Sony Pictures has had other successes this year, including "22 Jump Street" and "Heaven is for Real."

The studio was a bright spot during Sony's most recent fiscal quarter. For the three months ending March 31, Sony Pictures posted a profit of $402 million, up 112% from a year earlier. Revenue increased 30% to $2.6 billion.

Follow @DanielNMiller for film business news

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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