In a move that stabilizes Fox’s film production division after last year’s Jim Gianopulos exit, 20th Century Fox Film chairman and CEO Stacey Snider has signed Emma Watts to a new deal that makes her Vice Chairman as well as President of Production. The new deal extends her oversight to animation and international productions, as well as physical production, postproduction, visual effects and music.
Fox Animation president Vanessa Morrison will report to Snider and Watts; Fox International Productions president Tomas Jegeus will report to Watts and Andrew Cripps, who is president of International Distribution. Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley’s Fox Searchlight and Elizabeth Gabler’s Fox 2000 continue to report to Snider, as does Watts.
Snider just sent this email to staff:
Please join me in congratulating Emma Watts on her promotion to Vice Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Film (TCFF) and President of Production for Twentieth Century Fox (TCF) – a move we will be announcing shortly with the press release below. As I say in the release, Emma is truly one of a kind. Her contributions to our studio over the past two decades are too numerous to even attempt to list here, and the relationships she’s built with the industry’s top creative talent is literally unmatched in town. Both personally and professionally, I couldn’t be happier to have her in this expanded role.
Her promotion parallels a new organizational structure that will bring all of TCF’s filmmaking functions under Emma’s leadership. TCF’s Post Production, Physical Production, Music and Visual Effects departments will now report directly to Emma. These new reports will add to her ongoing oversight of TCF’s Production, Story and Creative Affairs groups. Having all these functions under one roof will help us work more collaboratively and efficiently from the development process all the way through post production.
In addition, Vanessa Morrison will continue her leadership of Fox Animation and will now co-report to Emma and me, while Tomas Jegeus, our President of Fox International Productions will continue to lead his group, co-reporting to Emma and Andrew Cripps. Elizabeth Gabler, Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula will continue to report to me, as will our marketing, distribution and other functional areas.
Emma’s new role is another step forward in building out the industry’s top management team – and having her duties scale across even more pieces of our business is fantastic news for the future of our studio. Please join me in once again congratulating Emma on this incredibly well-deserved promotion.
In an official announcement, Snider said: “Emma’s work over the past 20 years speaks for itself – she’s simply the best in the industry. On a personal level, I am thrilled to have her in this new role, one that not only enables us to work more closely together, but also expands her scope so we as a company can take full advantage of her talents as we tackle all the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Said Watts: “I’m excited to take on more responsibility and incredibly grateful for the continuing opportunity to work with the most creative and dedicated people in the business. A special thank you to Stacey for the trust and confidence she has placed in me with this new role.”
This happy outcome wasn’t a given back when Snider was named Fox Film chairman and CEO last summer — prompting an early exit by predecessor Gianopulos — and word on the lot was that things had been frosty between them and it was an open question whether Watts would continue to steer Fox’s film fortunes. But that talk died down as both executives dug in and focused on the slate. Deadline reported on January 30 that this re-up and ascension of Watts was coming, with the escalation of her responsibilities.
Snider is a seasoned warrior who has a track record of empowering and relying upon her executives. And it was clear that Watts, who joined Fox in 1997, has been one of the most effective film executives working at a studio right now. At Fox she’s doing repeat business with strong filmmakers and the franchises she has built are thriving. It was on her watch that Deadpool got made, an irreverent $58 million budget gamble that grossed $783 million worldwide and spawned a sequel that is in production. The final Wolverine installment Logan looks good and there is strong buzz on War For The Planet Of The Apes directed by Matt Reeves; Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant is skedded for May 19 release; Matthew Vaughn has Kingsman: The Golden Circle slated for this fall; and there is the Jennifer Lawrence-starrer Red Sparrow skedded for November 10; the Deadpool character and his irreverence seem likely to become a cornerstone for future X-Men spinoffs. All this to go with James Cameron’s Avatar sequels.
Future potential franchises include a deal Watts made with Loving helmer Jeff Nichols to write and direct what’s envisioned as a film trilogy based on the cult favorite 1988 science fiction thriller Alien Nation, that is a metaphor for racism and tolerance. The studio just prevailed in pre-empting the Raymond A. Villareal novel A People’s History Of The Vampire Uprising. It is described as World War Z with vampires and 21 Laps’ Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen will produce it and fast-track development of a book that sold in a big deal to the Little, Brown imprint Mulholland Books and will be published next year.