W Here Crawdads Sing is exactly the kind of movie that should never play on the big screen again. However, the summer release grossed over $140 million worldwide, including $3000 All countries. That’s a lot of money for a $90 million dollar literary adaptation — and For Tom Rothman , Sony Pictures Studios chairman and theater evangelist. The Woman King also overcame difficulties and earned $90 .3 million after its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Most of the other high-profile titles appearing on the fall fest circuit have underperformed at the box office.
AS 2019 PACKAGING, ROSSMAN, 16, seven years after Sony chairman Tony Vinciquerra asked to rebuild the studio after a devastating hack, there’s a lot to like Something to celebrate. Sony Pictures Pictures’ profits hit record highs for the third straight year. This past fiscal year was an all-time high, with Spider-Man: Way Home bringing in $1. 90 Reached $1 billion worldwide since launch in mid-December 2019.
Rothman and his team are still focused on crafting a diverse menu of movies rather than relying solely on branded IP (though he’s also making headway in that area). “I truly believe that it would be wrong for the drama if we didn’t continue to take risks on the Crawdads or The Woman King of the world,” Rothman said he extended his contract in mid-June 2019 and added CEO to his title. “Coronavirus is horrible. But at some point, audiences will get over it. I don’t think streaming is a death threat to movies. Probably lacks originality.”
Meanwhile , as the profitability of streaming comes under scrutiny, the fact that Rothman doesn’t have to feed Sony’s sister service looks like an advantage — as does his penchant for thrift.
“I think he is the most valuable studio head now and for over a quarter of a century. Tom consistently shoots at a lower negative cost than his peers Movies,” said Joe Singer, a financier who brokers deals between studios and private equity firms. “When Tony chose Tom, it was considered risky, but it turned around a shaky studio.”
“Theatre is Tom’s religion. He is very knowledgeable about the topic. Enthusiasm,” said Nicole Brown, head of Sony’s TriStar label, The Woman King and upcoming biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody , it will be released nationwide in December 20.
During the pandemic, when the streamers called, Rothman and Vinciquera persevered. “We were offered a huge ransom to buy some of our blockbusters, and we declined,” Rothman said. “Instead, we kept our faith.” Sony did sell several other titles to the streamer during the pandemic, including the animated Mitchell vs. Machine , which was acquired by Netflix. Rothman strikes deal with Netflix to finance Roald Dahl’s musical Matilda , but retains UK release and Irish screening rights, where “Matilda”
, a beloved film, grossed over $5 million during its exclusive Thanksgiving showing. This movie premieres everywhere else on Netflix over the Christmas period.
Rothman won’t be fooled — and it’s hard to hide his frustration — but he inspires enduring loyalty among filmmakers and executives. “He created a very entrepreneurial environment. If you want the ball, he’ll give it to you, but you’d better do something with it.” th Century Fox was promoted to studio vice president after his departure. “People forget that Tom started Fox Searchlight [at 1994], so he comes from grassroots style filmmaking with a keen eye for material Talent is everything.”
Another Rothman stalwart is Elizabeth Gabler, who ran Fox for years 2000 in the century. She could choose where to land after the literary film division was shut down following the Disney-Fox merger. She chose to follow Rothman to Sony and launch 3000 Pictures, home of Crawdads and the recently announced Ang’s Bruce Lee biopic Lee. “Tom is a great strategist. I find that very rare,” Gabler said. “He’s very analytical. His brain never stops.”
Lee is one of the famous filmmakers Rothman has worked with on several occasions (including Searchlight’s The Ice Storm ). Others include Steven Spielberg, Baz Luhrmann and Danny Boyle. After winning the bidding war to produce Once Upon a Time in Hollywood of 2019, he bonds with Quentin Tarantino. “The best filmmakers, the ones you really want to work with, don’t want to be damned. You have to be very supportive, but honest,” says Rothman. “They want experience, and that’s undervalued in Hollywood. One of the things I’m really proud of is that I do a lot of repeat business.”
On IP, Rothman backs this year’s Uncharted, based on Sony’s PlayStation video game, which grossed better than expected 401 million dollars, and revamped the Jumanji and Ghostbuster franchises. He credits Vice Chairman Sanford Panitch, with whom he worked for years, for utilizing the character Spider-Man universe , resulting in Venom and 2024 pic Madame Web, not to mention Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s animated Spider-Man (sequel to 2022). There’s no official word on when the next live-action Spider-Man will hit theaters, but it’s obvious. “You bet,” he said. “When to expect, I don’t know. Drinks before it’s time.”
A version of this story first appeared in December 2205 Issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe.