UPDATE with Fox announcement: 20th Century Fox has formalized the ascension of Stacey Snider as the new head of Twentieth Century Fox Film, and the move of current chairman Jim Gianopulos to a role upstairs at parent company 21st Century Fox. The studio just issued an announcement that reflects exactly what Deadline this morning reported was in the wind. This gives Snider stronger footing to assert herself at the studio, and in the kinds of slates and pictures that get made there.
There will be a feeling-out period between Snider and the heads of those Fox film imprints; Fox president Emma Watts and Fox Searchlight’s Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley technically reported to Snider, but had such a short hand with Gianopulos that the fit could be awkward. Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler didn’t report to Snider; she reported to Gianopulos. It will be intriguing to see how those relationships define themselves after this Snider coronation. Snider has a rep for being a strong manager and letting her department heads do their jobs, but at the end of the day, this is always about relationships and loyalties and some of those will need to be defined over the next year. It will also be interesting to see the influence of Gianopulos in facilitating this transition, as it wasn’t immediately if this was something the well liked executive wanted.
Here is Fox’s release:
As part of its long-term planning, 21st Century Fox today announced its leadership succession plan for its film studio Twentieth Century Fox Film. Longtime executive Jim Gianopulos, the Chairman and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film, will step down from his current post at the end of his contract term on June 30, 2017. At that time, Stacey Snider, who currently serves as the film studio’s Co-Chairman, will lead the studio as Chairman and CEO.
Mr. Gianopulos has agreed to continue with the Company upon the close of his current contract in 2017 and will then take on a new strategic role, continuing to report to Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s Executive Chairman, and CEO, respectively.
Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch commented:
“Jim has played an integral role in growing our global film business into the powerhouse it is today. We’ve benefited tremendously from his creative insights, his vast knowledge of international markets, and from his unique understanding of the technologies shaping our future. We look forward to continuing to work with Jim in a new strategic capacity after the close of his current contract term.”
Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman of 21st Century Fox added: “I have worked closely with Jim over the past twenty-five years and consider him a close confidant. Jim has delivered year after year, with films that truly soared, spanning Titanic, Avatar, and most recently the wildly successful Deadpool. I’m confident that his passion for movies and the business of film will carry through to our next generation of management and am convinced that his decades-long leadership has positioned us for continued future success. I am so pleased Jim has agreed to stay on in a new role and have the utmost confidence in the future of the studio under Stacey’s leadership.”
“I’m looking forward to this final year of an amazing 25-year journey at the studio, and to exciting new adventures,” said Jim Gianopulos. “This is an incredible place to work, with brilliant professionals and talented filmmakers, and I know when I turn the keys over, Stacey and the great team here will continue its historic legacy with future successes. I’m grateful to all my wonderful colleagues, past and present, and, especially, to Rupert, Lachlan, and James for all their support and I look forward to working with them in the years to come.”
Lachlan and James continued: “Succession planning is hard, and in a creative enterprise like Twentieth Century Fox Film, we are very cognizant of how tricky this can be. We are enormously grateful to Jim for his approach to this challenge, and to Stacey, who joined us a few years ago as part of this process, and who in a year’s time will assume his leadership position at the Studio. It goes without saying that Fox is broader than that, and we are fortunate to have an incredible team. Emma Watts, Steve Gilula, Nancy Utley, Vanessa Morrison, Elizabeth Gabler and Tomas Jegeus and so many other talented executives throughout the organization make this studio what it is. We are all super excited about our future together, and what we can achieve.”
PREVIOUS, 10:41 AM: After the recent moves at Sony’s film and television divisions, the town is buzzing that the next major to declare some changes – or at least clarify future direction — could come at Fox, and we should more as soon as later today. All kinds of rumors have been swirling regarding Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman/CEO Jim Gianopulos and 20th Century Fox Film co-chairman Stacey Snider. While Sony made changes, I’m hearing the likelihood is that Fox will clarify the direction of the company in this fashion: After the year he has left on his contract passes, Gianopulos could well take a title at parent company 21st Century Fox, a role parallel to the one that Ron Meyer holds at Universal.
There has long been expectation that Snider was brought over from DreamWorks by the Murdochs to be groomed for the top job, which Gianopulos assumed when Tom Rothman exited the studio. Given how she was inserted, the climate hasn’t been completely warm and fuzzy. Word is that the corporation will soon issue some kind of endorsement of her ascension, which could happen even sooner than a year. This clarity can only be helpful for Snider, a strong exec in the areas of material and filmmakers, whose non-specific nature of her current role has left her hard pressed to find a niche and left people wondering, particularly with strong executive personalities like Fox president Emma Watts, Fox 2000’s Elizabeth Gabler and Fox Searchlight presidents Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley managing their slates. But Snider is asserting herself behind the scenes. The studio has gone through recent belt-tightening through attrition, and sources said that as execs have been interviewed, Snider has met with all of them. Calls to Fox and the executives this morning were unavailing.
It seems the season for film executive movement or clarity at least, as Sony’s Doug Belgrad transitions from president to Sony-based producer with Sanford Panitch replacing him, and Warner Bros recently giving new deals to Greg Silverman and Sue Kroll, the later taken as affirmation that studio is staying the course. Fox right now is positioned second behind Disney in domestic film market share with 18%; its big performers so far have been Deadpool, The Revenant, X-Men: Apocalypse and Kung Fu Panda 3.
Gianopulos was integral in signing James Cameron to a new deal to make more Avatar films, at a time when the Oscar-winning director was discussing making the Cleopatra film at Sony with Angelina Jolie and Scott Rudin. Cameron will spent the better part of the next half decade or longer, banging out new installments of Avatar, still the highest-grossing film of all time. So while there was talk that Gianopulos might retire, it seems more likely his presence will be felt at Fox for some time. This is really more about Snider and how the community perceives her. She had a strong run at Universal and then moved to DreamWorks at the behest of Steven Spielberg. Her run included films like The Help and Lincoln, but it was so-so because of the structure of the financing arrangement from Reliance. The studio began making fewer movies, and when Snider guided the company from an expected distribution arrangement with Universal and instead went to Disney, it strained relationships at hers and Spielberg’s former home. DreamWorks, which has been reconstituted with Michael Wright at the helm as Amblin Partners, is now back in the Universal fold, where his Amblin offices have always been located.