Founded in 1918 as Cohn-Brant-Cohn Film Sales, the film studio was renamed Columbia Pictures in 1924. It gained prominence starting in the ‘20s due to its association with Frank Capra and producing some of the biggest films and stars of the classic Hollywood era. In the ‘80s, the studio was momentarily acquired by Coca-Cola and launched TriStar pictures. Columbia/TriStar was briefly its own entity, before Sony purchased it in 1989. Sony releases films from its many imprints including Columbia, Tristar, Sony Pictures Animation, Screen Gems, and Affirm. In April of this year, Sony entered into multiyear deals with both Netflix and The Walt Disney Company to host films on their streaming platforms (Disney+, Hulu) following their theatrical runs.
Sony Pictures has an inconsistent track record when it comes to LGBTQ-inclusive films. A political thriller from 1962, Advise and Consent, included a subplot where a Senate chairman is blackmailed over an affair he had with another man, before dying by suicide. TriStar’s Basic Instinct (1992) faced opposition from LGBTQ groups, including GLAAD, for its defamatory depiction of lesbian and bisexual women. Other inclusive films from Sony Columbia include Philadelphia (1993), Threesome (1994), and As Good as it Gets (1997). In more recent years, parent company Sony Pictures has released Rent (2005), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), Rough Night (2017), and The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018).
The Broken Hearts Gallery
Widest Theatrical Release: 2204 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Pass
This romcom follows Lucy, a 20-something in Brooklyn who creates an art gallery where people can leave mementos from previous relationships. Phillipa Soo plays Nadine, one of Lucy’s two best friends and an out lesbian. Throughout the film, the audience also sees several women that Nadine dates. The group of museum visitors who leave trinkets also includes queer people, with one woman ranting against the girl who broke her heart and a gay man who shares a touching story about a bottle of champagne he donates to the gallery that was meant to be shared with his late fiancé. The Broken Hearts Gallery creates a world that feels in line with the actual world – including multiple LGBTQ characters across levels of storytelling.
Widest Theatrical Release: 2748 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Pass
This horror film serves as a prequel to the 1970s TV series of the same name, and follows a group of people who travel to a mysterious island to have their fantasies fulfilled but get more than they bargained for. Two of these characters – brothers Brax and J.D. – are both interested in a fantasy of lavish partying. When they are provided with a scene of several scantily clad women, J.D. clarifies that Brax is gay. Brax is then brought into a room with scantily clad men. Later, the audience learns that part of the reason the brothers are so close is because J.D. supported Brax when their parents rejected Brax after he came out.
Though there are a few tone-deaf moments – Brax’s sexuality mostly involves objectifying other men – overall, the film treated Brax with the same respect as any straight character. The final twist of the film involves Brax staying at the island indefinitely so his brother can go out into the world. It’s implied that Brax becomes a character from the 1970s TV series, and should there be any film sequel, he would be a central part of it.
The Kid Detective
Widest Theatrical Release: 865 theaters
Vito Russo Test: Fail
This film follows Abe, a former child detective who is still working as an investigator though his reputation has been sullied. In the beginning of the film, Abe mentions being hired to find out if someone was gay. Later, when the current case he’s working leads him to a teenager named Billy, the audience learns the previous case referenced had been about Billy’s father. When Billy and Abe get into a confrontation, Abe uses the comeback, “Well, your dad’s gay.” Presented as a running joke, it’s unfortunate and disheartening that this gay character, never seen on screen, exists as a punchline, and then is outed to his own son in an act of spite so a straight person can win an argument.
Many of Sony’s announced LGBTQ-inclusive films from the previous year’s study were sold to streamers and other video on demand services in the past year, including Happiest Season, which went on to break streaming viewing records for Hulu, The Craft: Legacy, and the upcoming new Cinderella which features Billy Porter as Fab G, an updated take on the fairy godmother.
In 2022, Sony will be releasing I Wanna Dance with Somebody, a biopic of legendary singer Whitney Houston. Fans have often speculated that Houston was in a romantic relationship with Robyn Crawford, who wrote about their relationship in her own 2019 memoir. Hopefully, this film will delve into the relationship between Houston and Crawford with the respect it well deserves. The third in the Spider-Man series, No Way Home, is set for a December 2021 release. While neither of the first two films have included LGBTQ characters, there is an opportunity here to make Peter Parker’s schoolmates reflect the reality of a Queens, NY high school which would include queer students.
Out singer and former *NSYNC band member Lance Bass will be working with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creator Rachel Bloom on a film based on a true story following two girls who are superfans of the boy band and follow their summer tour. Given that the film is from Bass, hopefully it will feature Bass himself and perhaps further LGBTQ characters. In 2018, Sony announced that it will be working with bisexual singer Halsey to create a film based on their life. Though there haven’t been any further developments announced, this project following Halsey’s life – who has always been outspoken about their identity – would be a notable step forward for major studios to tell a meaningful bisexual story.
Sony Pictures Classics (SPC), founded in 1992, is the independent film division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which acquires, produces, and distributes independent narrative films and documentaries. The studio has released several high-profile LGBTQ films since its launch including My Life in Pink (1997); The Celluloid Closet (1995), a documentary about LGBTQ representations in film based on the book with the same title written by Vito Russo (co-founder of GLAAD); Kill Your Darlings (2013); Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited! (2013); Love Is Strange (2014); Grandma (2015); The Meddler (2016); GLAAD Media Award winners Call Me By Your Name and A Fantastic Woman (2017); Pain and Glory (2019) and more.
Widest Theatrical Release: 596 theaters
Greed follows the events leading up to wealthy fashion mogul Richard McCreadie’s Gladiator-themed 60th birthday part in Greece. The film is told from the point of view of a journalist, Nick, who is hired to help ghostwrite “Greedy McCreadie’s” memoirs, though he becomes increasingly conflicted as he is confronted by the shady and unethical business and personal dealings of this rich and influential group. Richard’s daughter, Lily, shows up for the party with her boyfriend Fabian and the camera crew for her reality series. Later in the film, the audience sees Fabian kissing another man and he ultimately comes out on their reality show, causing Lily to storm off in tears. Out actor Stephen Fry also makes a cameo as himself.