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On the afternoon of March 20, Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler was summoned to a conference room on the Fox lot, where Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn and president Alan Bergman delivered the news: There would be no future for her 20-year-old label now that Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox had closed.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter she was blindsided and had been assured that Fox 2000 would have a home within the Magic Kingdom. Now, a tug-of-war likely will ensue for Gabler’s services, pitting former Fox film co-chiefs Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman against each other.
Both Gianopulos, who heads up Paramount Pictures, and Rothman, chairman of Sony’s Motion Picture Group, are said to be interested in luring the executive behind such breakouts as The Fault in Our Stars, The Devil Wears Prada and Walk the Line.
Gabler, 63, has not yet decided her next move and enjoys a long professional relationship with both men. Rothman, who attended her recent farewell party on the lot, approached Gabler in spring 2015 to run Sony’s TriStar label but was rebuffed.
At least one other major studio and one of the streamers also are expected to throw their hats in the ring given Gabler’s track record ushering female-skewing midbudget films (consider that Fault was made for $12 million and earned $307.2 million worldwide).
Though technically Gabler still has a job at Disney, she is not expected to stay given that she lost the ability to greenlight two films per year, as was her setup at Fox. The Kevin Costner dog pic The Art of Racing in the Rain (Sept. 27) and the Amy Adams-led thriller The Woman in the Window (Oct. 4) will mark the final films to be released under the Fox 2000 label before it shutters.
As for why Disney decided to close shop, a studio source says that unlike Oscar magnet Fox Searchlight, there wasn’t a clear lane for the Fox 2000 brand (the Fox acquisition nearly doubled the number of film banners Disney manages). It didn’t help Gabler’s cause that the most recent film from Fox 2000 — the YA police brutality drama The Hate U Give — lost millions after earning just $35 million worldwide.
It is unclear whether Gabler’s staff will follow her out the door. One thing is certain: The dozens of projects that make up her development slate will stay behind or be put in turnaround.
Regardless of where she lands, Gabler is one of the most liked execs among authors and screenwriters. Says Michael H. Weber, who adapted John Green’s Fault with Scott Neustadter, “Elizabeth loves books and has an innate understanding of what makes them special and how to preserve that feeling when translating them to the big screen.”
This story first appeared in the March 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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