CinemaCon: Fox Chief Jim Gianopulos Feted at Will Rogers Pioneer of the Year Dinner

Jim Gianopulos - H 2014
AP Images

Jim Gianopulos - H 2014

Director Paul Feig was the master of ceremonies, enlisting 'The Heat' actresses Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin to commandeer the otherwise-serious event.

Twentieth Century Fox chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos was honored with the 2015 Pioneer of the Year award in Las Vegas on Wednesday night during an event infused with a large dose of humor.

Director Paul Feig, who directed the studio's upcoming comedy Spy, enlisted The Heat actresses Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin, who showed up in character as Gina and Beth. The duo helped fete Gianopulos with an impromptu gag that included poking fun at how News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch discovered Gianopulos while cruising off the coast of Greece (Gianopulos, of Greek origin, keeps a summer home there).

"I love Jim G. deeply, but not erotically," joked Feig, who directed The Heat for Fox before signing an overall deal with the studio.

Feig revealed an in-house video shot at Fox in which Gianopulos took on various jobs at the studio, including patrolling the entrance. At one point, the studio chief accidentally closed the gate on Tom Cruise as the actor drove onto the Fox lot on a motorcycle.

DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg also honored Gianopulos and all but blushed when taking the stage after the departure of Chaffin and Denbo, who heckled Katzenberg with comments like they'd like to "train his dragon." He responded by saying his dragon had "already been trained."

When speaking about Gianopulos, Katzenberg remarked: "Oh, and he has also made Rupert a ton of f—ing money. But we are also honoring Jim for his heart and his humanity."

When his turn came, Gianopulos thanked Feig. "I really want to thank my close friend Paul Feig for emceeing the night and arranging these two ladies. I didn't see that coming at all. It could have been a lot worse."

Wednesday night's event raised $1.4 million for the Pioneers Assistance Fund, designed to help members of the film and exhibition industries. Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation president Chris Aronson, who doubles as president of domestic theatrical distribution for Fox, announced a new neonatal program, Brave Beginnings, at the dinner.

"We’re here to help those people because we’re all in this together," said Gianopulos.

Previous winners of the Pioneer of the Year award, an industry tradition for more than 70 years, include: Katzenberg, Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck, Jack Valenti, Terry Semel, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Alan Horn, Kathleen Kennedy and, last year, the late Tom Sherak.