When Sherry Lansing Became the First Woman to Head a Major Studio

Associated Press
Sherry Lansing at Fox Studios on Jan. 2, 1980

"This is the highest production position yet for a woman in the motion picture industry"

On Jan. 2, 1980, Sherry Lansing made headlines for becoming the first woman to head a major studio, becoming president of 20th Century-Fox Productions. In 1992, she was named chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, where she held that title until 2005. Below is the original 1980 Hollywood Reporter article on the appointment.

Sherry Lansing, who recently departed Columbia Pictures as senior vp of production since 1978, has been named president of 20th Century-Fox Prods., announced Alan Hirschfield, vice-chairman and chief operating officer of 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. This is the highest production position yet for a woman in the motion picture industry. 

In her new job, Lansing will be responsible for the development and production of all feature films, worldwide, for the studio. 

She replaces Sandy Lieberson, who has moved back to London, reportedly to head up the Ladd Co.'s European division. 

Commenting on the appointment, Hirschfield noted, "We believe that Sherry Lansing is the ideal executive to lead 20th Century-Fox in meeting the production challenges of the 1980s. Most significantly she brings to us an ability to attract and relate to the creative filmmakers who are so critical to the success of a major studio today. In addition, she combines with her creative and artistic capabilities a finely honed sense of the marketplace for movies and a strong business acumen.

"The value of these unique skills has been amply demonstrated during the past year in the enormous commercial and critical acclaim of The China Syndrome and Kramer vs. Kramer, two films for which Lansing had the senior responsibility as production executive. We know that she will continue to expand on that kind of leadership in the years ahead at Fox."

She had begun her association with Columbia as vp production in November of 1977.

Prior to that, Lansing had joined MGM in 1975 as executive story editor and in 1977 was elevated to vp creative affairs. She also held executive positions with Talent Associates and Wagner International, and had been an actress. 

Before joining the motion picture industry, Lansing was a mathematics teacher in Los Angeles high schools. 

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