HOLLYWOOD - Sherry Lansing, a Hollywood pioneer who for three decades has been one of the most powerful figures in the movie business, plans to step down as chairwoman of Paramount Pictures when her contract expires at the end of next year.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Lansing will stay long enough to help choose her successor and to aid in the transition. But after 12 years in one of the most high-pressure jobs in the business, Lansing has made it known that she does not plan to seek another entertainment industry job.
Lansing's decision comes as she finds herself having to prove to her new boss, Viacom Inc. co-President Tom Freston, that she can reverse the fortunes of the struggling studio.
Carl Folta, a spokesman for Viacom, which owns Paramount, declined to comment.
Lansing has been involved with some of the most acclaimed movies of her generation - The China Syndrome, Forrest Gump and The Accused. But during her past three years at Paramount, she has presided over a box-office slump that has prompted questions about her future in the industry.
People close to Lansing say that the unflappable executive - a one-time actress and model who became in 1980 the first female president of production for a Hollywood studio - has felt ambivalent about her job for some time. Lansing, they say, has grown weary of budget battles and red-carpet rituals.
In June, Lansing's boss of 10 years, Viacom's entertainment chief Jonathan Dolgen, abruptly resigned. Viacom chief executive Sumner Redstone had passed him over for a bigger role at the company, instead promoting Freston and CBS chief Leslie Moonves.
Lansing went to Dolgen's office on the Paramount lot in tears, asking if she, too, should resign, sources said. He urged her not to, if only because she would risk losing millions of dollars if she left before her contract expires Dec. 31 next year.
A month later, Lansing turned 60 - a birthday she had long told business associates she did not want to celebrate while still at Paramount.
Lansing and Freston have had recent discussions about her future at the studio, said a source close to the matter. Lansing, the source said, expressed a desire to try something different, but Freston urged her to reconsider.
Lansing is the rare Hollywood player who has established a life and identity outside the business. She sits on a number of boards, including those of the regents of the University of California, the Rand Corp., the American Red Cross and the University of Chicago. She also is an active fund-raiser for the Friends of Cancer Research and the Carter Center, former President Carter's human rights organization.
Some have speculated that Lansing, who is married to director William Friedkin, may start a nonprofit foundation and devote herself full time to public service or, possibly, politics.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.