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Veteran Hollywood movie executive Courtenay Valenti has closed a deal to take on the role of head of film, streaming and theatrical, for Amazon Studios and MGM as the e-commerce giant expands its footprint in the movie space. Talk of her pending hire was first reported at the end of January, and caps months of speculation as to who would take the job now that Amazon owns MGM.
Valenti will report directly to Amazon and MGM Studios chief Jennifer Salke. She begins March 1.
“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,” Salke wrote in memo to staff Tuesday.
“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,” Salke continued. “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.”
Valenti’s hire ends a long search that commenced when Amazon’s $8.45 billion deal to buy MGM closed in spring 2022. MGM’s previous movie chiefs, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, left for Warner Bros. several months later.
In an ironic case of musical chairs, Valenti exited Warners when new owner Warner Bros. Discovery put Abdy and De Luca in charge (they succeeded Toby Emmerich).
“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,” Salke said in her memo. “These films have been a terrific complement to our Amazon Originals, and I’d like to thank Julie Rappaport for the amazing job she has done as the interim head of both film groups.”
Rapaport 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. “I’ll have more to share about our team in the coming weeks,” Salke said. “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.”
During her 33-year stint at Warners, Valenti was recognized for her keen eye and judgement, as well as for her steady style. She played a key role in the production of some of the studio’s most important modern-day franchises, including overseeing four Harry Potter films. Her roster also featured Crazy Rich Asians, The Lego Movie and the revived Mad Max movies, among many others. Upcoming titles include Barbie and The Color Purple.
She also oversaw notable Oscar players, including current best picture nominee Elvis.
In her new job, Valenti will be reunited with Ben Affleck on the movie AIR, a sports drama that will open everywhere in theaters in early April. Now that it owns a legacy Hollywood studio, Amazon is giving AIR a traditional theatrical release with a real window, versus making it available immediately, or almost immediately, on Prime Video. (Affleck made his Oscar-winning Argo for Warners.)
Valenti will also be reunited with Sue Kroll, a Warner Bros. alum who now runs marketing at Amazon Studios. Both she and Kroll come from the theatrical side of the business, which isn’t insignificant when it comes to dealing with filmmakers, agents and talent.
Valenti also hails from industry royalty. Her father is the late Jack Valenti, the larger-than-life, longtime president of the Motion Picture Association who launched the movie ratings system that’s still in existence today and was devised in order to prevent government interference and censorship.
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