Sony Pictures’ Top Seat Filled

Time Warner Int’l president Michael Lynton has been appointed chair of Sony Pictures Ent., ending months of speculation over who will replace John Calley. Calley resigned in early October after five years atop the studio. The announcement was made by Howard Stringer, chairman and chief exec. officer of Sony Corp. of America and vice chairman of Sony Corp.

Lynton will take the reins from the interim management team of Columbia Pictures chairperson Amy Pascal, Columbia TriStar worldwide marketing and distribution president Jeff Blake and Sony Pictures Digital president Yair Landau. Pascal will now be promoted to chairwoman of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, running the studio alongside Lynton. She will be responsible for all the films produced and distributed by Sony Pictures Ent.

Both Lynton and Pascal will report to Stringer. Their appointments will be effective in Jan. 2004.

Among those considered Calley’s possible successors were former NBC News president Andy Lack, who became chairman and CEO of Sony Music in January, former Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb and Revolution Studios founder Joe Roth. Roth, who is set to direct the Tim Allen feature Skipping Christmas, has reportedly said he was not pursuing the position.

Before joining AOL in 1999, Lynton held a number of high-ranking industry posts including president of Disney publishing, president of Hollywood Pictures and chairman and CEO of the Penguin Group publishing company.

Sony Pictures, home of the blockbuster Spider-Man franchise, has made a major investment in developing animated films with the establishment of Sony Pictures Animation. The branch, spearheaded by exec. VPs Sandra Rabins and Penny Finkleman-Cox, was born just over a year ago and already has a full slate of CG features in the works, including Open Season from cartoonist Steve Moore and the full-length version of Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Academy Award-winning short The ChubbChubbs.