After serving as president of the digital division at Sony Pictures Entertainment for nearly 10 years, Yair Landau is planning to leave the studio in April, it was announced today by Sony Pictures Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and Co-Chairman Amy Pascal.
Landau, who has been with Sony Pictures for 17 years, is planning a new games and animation venture to develop and produce content for use across all media.
Lynton and Pascal said a replacement for Landau in the studio's digital division will be named soon.
Lynton and Pascal also announced that Landau will continue working with Sony Pictures as an Executive Producer of CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, an animated feature scheduled for release in 2009.
"When Yair came to us a few months ago and said he was ready to move on, we wanted him to stay, but it became clear that he wanted to do on the outside what he had been doing here on the inside for so long and so well -- building a new business in the 'new media' environment," said Lynton. "He helped bring us into the digital age with the Sony Pictures Digital division, which has served as our very own new media incubator," said Lynton. "His strategic vision, technological savvy and business acumen helped us keep pace with the rapid changes affecting our industry."
"I have been proud to work with a colleague as creative and innovative as Yair," said Pascal. "From his role in helping to bring the SPIDER-MAN franchise to our studio to his leadership of our digital division, Yair has left an indelible mark on our company and this industry."
"From the moment I began my relationship with Sony Pictures Entertainment 10 years ago, Yair has been a truly valued friend and colleague," said Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman and CEO, Sony Corporation. "His influence on Sony's decision-making in the digital dawn has been profound and enduring. We will all benefit from his instincts and insights for many years to come."
Under the direction of Landau and the leadership of its president, Tim Sarnoff, Sony Pictures Imageworks developed into a leading, state-of-the-art digital animation and visual effects company creating computer-generated imaging (CGI) for motion pictures.
In 2003, Imageworks' first animated short, THE CHUBB CHUBBS! won numerous awards including an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
In 2005, the visual effects and animation team at Imageworks was honored with an Academy Award for Achievement in Visual Effects for SPIDER-MAN 2.
"Yair and Tim really put us on the map in the visual effects business," said Lynton. "Imageworks is the best in the business, thanks in large part to their vision and the creativity of their entire team."
Landau established Sony Pictures Animation in 2002. Along with Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins, they assembled a talented team of animation filmmakers to produce all-CG animated feature films. Sony Pictures Animation's first two features, OPEN SEASON, released in 2006, and 2007's SURF'S UP, were critically acclaimed and have together accumulated close to $350 million in worldwide box office revenue. SURF'S UP received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year in 2008.
During his time at Sony Pictures, Landau also oversaw the growth of Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) into a worldwide leader in massive multiplayer online games, such as EVERQUEST, UNTOLD LEGENDS, and PLANETSIDE and STAR WARS GALAXIES.
"Having had the chance to be an entrepreneur inside a company like Sony Pictures, growing new lines of business that can now stand on their own, this is the right time for me to move on and explore exciting new opportunities in the industry," said Landau. "Since joining the studio shortly after its acquisition by Sony, I have had the good fortune to work at the intersection of entertainment and technology. I am especially grateful to Howard Stringer, John Calley, Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton and the many talented colleagues with whom I've shared these past 17 years."
In addition to the work of Imageworks and Sony Pictures Animation in the studio's digital division, Sony Pictures continues to be at the forefront of the technology boom in the industry, playing an important role in the promotion of Blu-ray high definition discs and the creation and distribution of content in mobile, portable and online markets. The studio is also a champion of the industry's move to digital cinema in theaters worldwide.
Landau said a further announcement regarding his new venture will come in the near future. He is also accepting offers to join the boards of several businesses and is planning to make investments in media, entertainment and technology companies, applying his experience as a digital media pioneer in this growing market.
Landau came to Sony Pictures in 1991 from the investment banking world. At Sony Pictures, he has served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Development and Vice Chairman of Sony Pictures. He was named President of Sony Pictures Digital in 1999.
He helped pioneer some of the studio's earliest ventures on the Internet and internationally, including Screenblast, an early user-generated video website; Movielink, a multi-studio video download service; and, in conjunction with Sony Pictures Television International, a television channel in India.
Landau is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago, and holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.