Fox Film Vice Chair Emma Watts Eyes Key Post-Merger Role With Disney

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Emma Watts (left) and Stacey Snider

Her boss Stacey Snider, however, won't be joining Disney once the historic union closes at the end of the year.

While 20th Century Fox Film co-chairman and CEO Stacey Snider won't be part of the historic Disney-Fox wedding party, her No. 2 — vice chairman Emma Watts — is expected to take on a key role at Disney post-merger, insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Walt Disney Studios is run by chairman-CEO Alan Horn, whose strong base of power means that there isn't a place for Snider — his counterpart at 20th Century Fox — once parent conglom The Walt Disney Co. closes its historic $71.3 billion acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox at the end of the year.

Watts, a seasoned production executive with strong talent relationships, is in a different position. Her exact role at Disney is still being hammered out, although her duties are almost certain to involve guiding films now in the 20th Century Fox pipeline, including the marquee Avatar and Kingsman franchises (in recent days, Kingsman 3 was dated for release on Nov. 8, 2019).

While Disney has finalized the TV side of the merger, it isn't yet ready to announce its precise plans for how it will structure, or absorb, such film assets as 20th Century Fox proper or Fox 2000.

The one exception is specialty unit Fox Searchlight, which Walt Disney Co. chief Bob Iger has repeatedly said will remain intact under the leadership of Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley. Searchlight puts Disney — the former owner of Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Miramax — back in the awards game in a major way.

Disney is already home to such brands as Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios and Pixar Animation, which, alongside Disney's own live-action studio and Disney Animation Studios, have propelled it to unprecedented box-office domination among the major Hollywood studios. Its next ambition is to become a streaming giant; having additional content from Fox will further that effort. Some movies may even bypass a theatrical release.

In recent months, Gilula and Utley have met with Disney execs, as has Watts and Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler.

Watts has strong ties to such filmmakers and talent as James Cameron, Ryan Reynolds, Matthew Vaughn, Ridley Scott and Matt Reeves. She is credited for restoring the patina to marquee franchises Planet of the Apes and X-Men, as well as guiding the birth of the Deadpool series and spearheading the Night at the Museum and Maze Runner franchises. (Once the merger closes, X-Men and Deadpool are expected to cede to Kevin Feige's Marvel.) Other box-office successes include The Greatest Showman and The Martian.

Watts has been at Fox for more than two decades. After serving a long stint as president of production, she was elevated to vice chairman in February 2017. Her portfolio of responsibilities expanded to include physical production, postproduction, visual effects and music in addition to her ongoing leadership of the studio’s production, story, creative affairs and casting departments.

Snider arrived at Fox as vice chairman in 2014 from DreamWorks, which she ran alongside Steven Spielberg. Before that, she was chairman of Universal Pictures. In 2016, she was named chairman of 20th Century Fox film, succeeding longtime chairman Jim Gianopulos.

Snider has yet to announce her next move, although sources close to her say she's considering striking out on her own with a full-fledged production venture to take part in the content gold rush that has resulted from the rise of Netflix, Amazon and now Apple and Facebook.