Amazon Studios Boss Jen Salke on Tuesday finally named former Warner Bros President of Production Courtenay Valenti as Head of Film, Streaming and Theatrical for Amazon Studios and MGM. She will report directly to Salke.
Julie Rapaport, who was the interim head of both studios, will continue to oversee the slate for Amazon Originals and MGM in her new role as Head of Film Creative and Strategy, reporting to Valenti.
The deal, which Deadline first told you about, has been in the works for a while and arrives before Amazon MGM’s big release this weekend of Creed III at the box office; it is set to see the franchise’s best domestic debut between $38 million-$40 million.
Following Amazon’s purchase of MGM, the studio’s top leaders, Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, headed to Warner Bros as co-chairs of the motion picture division. It took awhile for Amazon to find someone for its top motion picture job — former Paramount and 20th Century Fox production boss Emma Watts being one of the contenders.
Valenti left Warners in September and took some time off. She was also in talks for a film executive position at Netflix but had been interviewing with Amazon since October. The shopping-streaming site has an interview process called ‘”the loop” which all candidates for top positions there go through. It takes some time for candidates to complete.
There have been rampant rumors that Valenti is taking certain Warner execs with her, but Amazon doesn’t operate like a regular movie studio. Anyone up for a job has to complete this lengthy interview ‘loop’. It’s not a simple “show up in my office on Monday” type of place.
Valenti is known not just for her great working relationships with filmmakers like George Miller, Baz Luhrmann, Alfonso Cuarón, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper and more, but also her eloquent corporate demeanor and classy taste in feature fare. She brought enormous success to Warner Bros and looks to do the same at Amazon as it pivots toward releasing more wide theatrical titles, part of that being due to the acquisition of MGM. Amazon, in a return to wide theatrical releases, recently decided to pull its Ben Affleck-directed Matt Damon Nike movie Air from a Prime debut and put into theaters, dated for Easter weekend, April 7-9.
The daughter of former MPAA chief Jack Valenti has had an impressive blockbuster and award-winning streak included films such as this year’s Oscar-nominated Elvis, which was part of a wave of films that brought older adults back to theaters after Covid; Happy Feet; The Great Gatsby; The Lego Movie and Fantastic Beasts franchises; the Oscar-winning A Star Is Born; Dune; and Mad Max Fury Road to name a few. She left behind some great gems for Warners: the Max Max prequel Furiosa, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, and the big-screen version of the Broadway musical The Color Purple.
Here’s the note from Salke to staffers announcing the move:
It’s been nearly a year since Amazon acquired MGM, and through that time I’ve had the opportunity to get to know the MGM team and their work. I’ve been so impressed by the creativity and innovation and by the quality of the MGM slate, including Orion Pictures. These films have been a terrific complement to our Amazon Originals, and I’d like to thank Julie Rapaport for the amazing job she has done as the interim head of both film groups.
Our strategy now encompasses an expanded investment in film, including a robust theatrical plan and growing streaming program, in order to bring even more movies to film lovers all over the world. A key part of this strategy has been taking a focused and deliberate approach to ensure we have the right people in place to execute our creative vision. To that end, I’m pleased to announce that Courtenay Valenti is joining us on March 1 as Head of Film, Streaming and Theatrical, overseeing all films for Amazon and MGM Studios, reporting to me. Courtenay is a seasoned executive with more than three decades of experience in the industry, strong ties with filmmakers and creatives, and an outstanding reputation for excellence, from producing blockbuster movies to developing new franchises. Under her leadership, the team will continue to carefully curate our slate to deliver a well-rounded selection of tentpoles, prestige films, and genre fare.
Courtenay was most recently President of Production and Development at Warner Bros., overseeing the film slates for both Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Feature Animation. During her 33 years with the company, she oversaw numerous successes including the last four Harry Potter films, The Great Gatsby, Fantastic Beasts, Crazy Rich Asians, The Lego Movie, Lego Batman, You’ve Got Mail, and The Intern. She also played a central role in developing and shepherding the Oscar-winning Happy Feet and Mad Max: Fury Road as well as this year’s Academy Award nominated Elvis. Given her extraordinary track record in the film business, it’s an honor to have her join us.
We’re well positioned for the future, and Julie is a big part of that. Recent successes achieved under her leadership include Being the Ricardos, Catherine Called Birdy, Goodnight Oppy, My Policeman, and Sundance award winners Emergency and Nanny. Upcoming titles Julie has also overseen include Air, Red One, Candy Cane Lane, Saltburn, Foe, The Burial and Cassandro as well the MGM titles Creed III, Challengers and Road House. Julie will continue to oversee the slate for Amazon Originals and MGM in her new role as Head of Film Creative and Strategy, reporting to Courtenay. I’ll have more to share about our team in the coming weeks.
Courtenay and Julie share a passion for storytelling and for storytellers, and together they will give us an even stronger creative edge and enhance our distinctive place as the Home for Talent.
I know you’ll join me in welcoming Courtenay to the team.
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