In a raft ofpromotions rewarding key players in last year's record-breakingperformance by Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Peter Schlessel has beennamed president of Columbia Pictures and Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach havebeen named co-presidents of production at the studio. SPE earned more than$1.57bn at the domestic box office last year, an all-time industry high thatwas chiefly driven by Columbia Pictures. "These promotions recognise thepivotal role that each of these executives made to Columbia Pictures'history-making success last year," Amy Pascal, chairman of ColumbiaPictures, and SPE vice chairman, said in a statement today (Jan 14).

In his new capacity,Schlessel will continue to oversee the day-to-day activities of the productionteam. In addition, he will assume oversight of the administrative andoperational functions of Columbia Pictures, including the business affairsunit. He will report to Pascal, who will continue to determine which projectsare ultimately put into production. Tolmach and Belgrad will report toSchlessel and coordinate the development and supervise the production of 12-15feature films each year.

"Peter isan exceptional leader and he has been a great partner in managing theday-to-day operations of Columbia Pictures. This promotion will further allowhim to assist me as we lead Columbia Pictures into the future," Pascalsaid. "As for Doug and Matt, they are the perfect pair to lead ourdevelopment team. They have worked collaboratively together for many years andthey are a true partnership of equals with a record that speaks for itself.Last year, Doug was responsible for Men in Black II and Mr. Deeds, and Matt was responsible for Spider-Man and Panic Room. It's clear that Columbia Pictures wouldnot have enjoyed the best year in its history without theircontributions."

Schlessel joinedColumbia TriStar in 1989 and has held a number of positions at the studio.Immediately prior to assuming his present title he spent five years as bothexecutive vice president of acquisitions, production and business affairs ofColumbia TriStar's Motion Picture Group and executive vice president of ScreenGems. Prior to that he was senior vice president of Columbia TriStar HomeVideo, where he participated in more than 1,000 third-party acquisitions forColumbia TriStar.

Belgrad wasnamed executive vice president of production at Columbia Pictures in 1999. Hehas supervised the production of the upcoming releases National Security, starring Martin Lawrence; Identity, starring John Cusack, Ray Liotta andAmanda Peet; the suspense thriller Basic, starring John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson; and BadBoys II. Tolmach wasnamed executive vice president of production in Nov 1999 and has overseen thedevelopment and production of Spider-Man, Spice World, Panic Room, Ali and A Knight's Tale.

Columbia'sslate for 2003/4 includes: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymoreand Lucy Liu; Bad Boys II, directed by Michael Bay and starring Will Smith and MartinLawrence; S.W.A.T., starringSamuel L Jackson and Colin Farrell. Upcoming titles include: Robert Rodriguez'sOnce Upon A Time in Mexico, a sequel to Desperado, starring Antonio Banderas as the mythic hero ElMariachi; Tim Burton's BigFish, starring EwanMcGregor and Albert Finney; an untitled Nancy Meyers comedy starring JackNicholson; and The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire andKirsten Dunst.