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American television and film production and distribution unit of Sony
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.
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 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.
In November 2014, the Sony Pictures computer network was compromised by a group of hackers named Guardians of Peace, disabling many computers. Later the same week, five of Sony Pictures' movies were leaked, including some not yet released (such as Fury and Annie), as well as confidential data about 47,000 current and former Sony employees. Film historian Wheeler Winston Dixon suggested that the hack, which exposed the inner workings of the studio, was "not a pretty picture," and served as a "wake-up call to the entire industry." The hack also revealed some other documents, emails between Hollywood moguls referring to Barack Obama's cinematic tastes, a possible partnership with Marvel Studios for the inclusion of the superhero Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, which was later confirmed on February 2015, amongst others. On December 16, the hackers issued a warning to moviegoers, threatening to attack anyone who sees The Interview during the holidays and urging people to "remember the 11th of September 2001". On December 17, 2014, Sony cancelled the previously planned December 25 release of The Interview in response to hacker threats.
On February 24, 2015, Tom Rothman was named chairman of SPE's motion picture group to replace Amy Pascal.
On April 16, 2015, WikiLeaks published over 30,287 documents, 173,132 e-mails, and 2,200 corporate e-mail addresses of Sony Pictures' employees. WikiLeaks said in a press release that the content of the leaks were "newsworthy and at the center of a geo-political conflict" and belonged "in the public domain". Sony Pictures later condemned the hack and subsequent leaks, calling it a "malicious criminal act", while also criticizing WikiLeaks for describing the leaked content as public domain.
Seth Rogen has expressed doubts about North Korea being responsible for the 2014 Sony hack. Based on the timeline of events and the amount of information hacked, he believes the hack may have been conducted by a Sony employee.
Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group: formerly Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. With a library of more than 4,000 films (including 12 Academy Award for Best Picture winners), as of 2004 this unit of Sony distributes about 22 films a year under its various studio brands in 67 countries. The group owns studio facilities in the United States, Hong Kong, Madrid, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Japan. In addition to the company-owned brands below, Sony Pictures also has a contract to distribute select films by MGM and UA.
TriStar Pictures: Formed in 1982 as a joint venture between Columbia Pictures, HBO, and CBS. Became part of The Coca-Cola Company in December 1987 and the Sony ownership in 1989. Was relaunched in 2004 as a marketing and acquisitions unit that specializes in the genre and independent films.
Screen Gems: Originally Columbia's animation division and later a television production company best known for TV's Bewitched and The Partridge Family, as well as bringing The Three Stoogesshort subjects to TV in 1958. Sony revived the Screen Gems brand in 1998 to develop mid-priced movies (production budget of between $20 million and $50 million) in specific genres such as science fiction, horror, black cinema and franchise films.
Sony Pictures Releasing: Founded in 1994 as a successor to Triumph Releasing Corporation. The unit handles distribution, marketing, and promotion for films produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment; including Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Classics, among others.1
Sony Pictures Releasing International (formerly Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International)
Sony Pictures India: A production house established by Sony to release Indian movies and distribute Hollywood movies released under Columbia Pictures.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions (SPWA): A Sony division which acquires and produces about 60 films per year for a wide variety of distribution platforms, especially for non-theatrical markets. It had been called Worldwide SPE Acquisitions, Inc. until September 2010.
Destination Films: A motion picture company which currently specializes in action, thriller, sci-fi, niche and low-end to medium-end horror films was purchased by Sony in 2001.
TriStar Television: Originally launched in 1986 and folded into Columbia Pictures Television in 1988. Relaunched in 1991 and became in-name-only in 1999. Relaunched again in 2015 as a production label within SPT.
Electric Ray: Founded by Karl Warner with SPT in January 2014.
Huaso: A Chinese joint venture production company launched in 2004 by Sony Pictures Television International and Hua Long Film Digital Production Co., Ltd. of the China Film Group in Beijing.
Lean-M Producers Center: A Russian production company founded in 2000 by Timur Weinstein, Vyacheslav Murugov and Oleg Osipov. In 2007, SPTI acquired a majority stake in Lean-M, with an additional 16% on April 13, 2009  and the remainder in 2010.
Left Bank Pictures: A UK production company founded by Andy Harries, Francis Hopkinson, and Marigo Kehoe in 2007. Majority stake acquired by SPT in 2012.
FunimationNow (95%): FunimationNow is the subscription video-on-demand service of Funimation Productions. It streams Japanese anime and Japanese/Asian cinema/TV titles licensed by the company as well as, from 2016 to 2018, several simulcast titles licensed exclusively by Crunchyroll.
Sony Pictures Studios: The actual physical buildings, land and movie-making equipment properties in Culver City, California. Includes 22 sound stages, ranging in size from 7,600 to 43,000 square feet (700 to 4,000 m²)
Sony Pictures Plaza
Sony Pictures Europe: Offices located at 25 Golden Square, London, England
Sony Pictures Studios Post Production Facilities
Worldwide Product Fulfillment
Related Sony Pictures divisions
The following are other Sony Pictures divisions that are not subsidiaries of the California-based Sony Pictures Entertainment, but are instead subsidiaries of the main Tokyo-based Sony Corporation.
Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan (SPEJ): The company plans, produces, manufactures, sells, imports, exports, leases, broadcasts and distributes movies, TV programs, videos and audio-visual software in Japan. The company website says it was established on February 10, 1984, predating Sony's acquisition of Columbia Pictures Entertainment by 5 years. SPEJ was formed in 1991 through the merger of Columbia TriStar Japan, RCA-Columbia Pictures Video Japan, and Japan International Enterprises. Based in Tokyo, Japan.
The California-based Sony Pictures Entertainment holds a majority share of SPEJ.
^Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. is a wholly owned fifth-tier subsidiary of Sony Corporation. It is directly owned by Sony Film Holding Inc., a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Sony Corporation. (FY2015 Securities Report (in Japanese), Sony Corporation)