Sony President Nobuyuki Idei continues to clean house at his Sony Pictures Entertainment. Now, it's time for president and chief operating officer Alan Levine to say sayonara, after a brief period of what they called a management "transition." Transition to what, the short statement from Sony did not say. Daily Variety reported today that the studio is in talks with United Artists President John Calley about a top job, if not the top job.

Levine's fate was sealed this summer when Sony released a series of box-office disappointments, including The Cable Guy, for which Sony paid Jim Carrey $20 million. Last month, Mark Canton, chairman of the movie unit, paid for that movie and other flops with his job. The firing of Levine is just the latest upheaval at a studio which has known nothing but turmoil since Sony took over in 1989. The initial managers, star producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber, overspent and underperformed, and the studio has never seemed to find its way since. One bright spot: the television division, distributor of Seinfeld, Mad About You and The Nanny.

Sony bought the studio amid much talk about the synergies between the electronics world and Hollywood. That grand strategy hasn't panned out yet, and Idei is reportedly trying to invent a new one, in part by consulting with rival showbiz wisemen like Michael Ovitz of Disney and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch.

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