Exit Follows a String of Box Office Duds

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group’s head of marketing has resigned on the heels of a string of disappointing movie releases blamed for dragging down parent company Sony’s bottom line.
'Bewitched,' 'Stealth' and 'XXX: State of the Union' were some of the Sony films that did poorly this year.

Consultant through '06
Geoffrey Ammer, who has overseen marketing at the studio for four years, will stay until year’s end and help launch Sony’s next few films, including “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Fun with Dick and Jane.” He will remain a consultant there through 2006, according to a statement released by Sony.

Mr. Ammer wasn’t available for comment, a Sony spokesman said. Jeff Blake, the studio’s chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution, said Mr. Ammer has been “a tremendous asset to the studio, and we wish him nothing but our best and look forward to his continued contributions as a consultant to the department.”

News of his replacement is expected soon, with some Hollywood insiders saying the job could go to Valerie Van Galder, president of TriStar Pictures.

Film disappointments
The studio is tied with Universal Pictures for third place in market share at the moment, though it likely will lose that position when Universal’s much-anticipated “King Kong” opens Dec. 14. Sony’s film division has had a number of disappointments, and some outright bombs, this year. Recently, the family film “Zathura,” despite high-profile marketing and appearances by the filmmaker Jon Favreau and Mr. Ammer on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” fared poorly at the box office. It has made only $27.4 million so far.

Other underperformers include the musical “Rent,” based on the long-running Broadway success, and “The Legend of Zorro,” which was weak in the U.S. though it has been strong internationally.

High-cost flops
Some of the studio’s flops, such as this summer’s “Bewitched,” “Stealth” and “XXX: State of the Union,” were particularly troubling given their sizeable production budgets. In fact, only one movie so far this year, the Will Smith romantic comedy “Hitch,” has been an unqualified success, pulling in more than $100 million.

It’s quite a different story than last year, when Sony was in the top spot in market share on the back of its mega-hit “Spider-Man 2.” Along with that film, Mr. Ammer and his team launched ”The Grudge,” “Guess Who” and “50 First Dates” during his tenure. He’s expected to announce his future plans after the beginning of the year.

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