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Stacey Snider will take over for Jim Gianopulos as the top film executive at 20th Century Fox.
The studio on Thursday officially confirmed the moves, but the transition will take a year before it is formerly completed. The studio announced that Gianopulos, whoserves as chairman and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film, will step down from his post at the end of his current contract on June 30, 2017, with Snider, co-chairman of the studio, taking over his responsibilities as studio chairman and CEO.
Gianopulos, the announcement said, will stay with Fox after the end of his contract in what it described as “a new strategic role,” reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s executive chairman and CEO, respectively. “I’m looking forward to this final year of an amazing 25-year journey at the studio, and to exciting new adventures,” Gianopulos said in the statement.
The move, according to sources, is considered a slight toward Gianopulos and production president Emma Watts, who have guided the studio ably since Tom Rothman was ousted in 2012, overseeing such hits as the Planet of the Apes and X-Men franchises as well as the February smash Deadpool.
The shake-up caught many in the industry by surprise, including the heads of rival companies and some with close ties to Fox, who believed that Gianopulos and Watts were secure based on their performance. One such filmmaker called the moves “baffling” and “disappointing.”
When she originally joined Fox as co-chairman in late 2014, Snider was charged with overseeing all production and development for Fox, Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios, Fox International Productions and Fox Searchlight, while the Fox 2000 label, headed by Elizabeth Gabler, continued to report to Gianopulos. Gianopulos and Snider were given joint oversight of the studio’s global marketing and distribution efforts. But since her arrival 18 months ago, Snider had difficulty carving out a role for herself amid the studio’s existing power structure. That has left some wondering what a Snider administration might look like, given that she has not yet put her imprint on Fox. Said one source close to the studio, “Other people, I could anticipate. But in this case, it’s a blank canvas. A lot of people are going to give voice to the idea that this is unfair.”
Snider came to Fox — at the urging of 21st Century Fox co-chairman Rupert Murdoch — from DreamWorks, which she ran with Steven Spielberg from 2006 to 2014 until it encountered money trouble. She oversaw such films as Lincoln, The Help and Tropic Thunder as the company moved first to Paramount and then to Disney. Prior to her stint at DreamWorks, Snider served as chairman of Universal Pictures from 1999 to 2006, helping to launch such franchises as Fast and Furious, Bourne and Meet the Parents. Her Universal slate also included Erin Brockovich, A Beautiful Mind, Seabiscuit and Ray.
Gianopulos, who rose through Fox’s international distribution ranks, served as co-chair of Fox Filmed Entertainment, alongside Rothman, from 2000 to 2012, at which point he became the sole chairman.
In announcing the executive changes, the Murdoch brothers said in a statement, “Jim has played an integral role in growing our global film business into the powerhouse it is today. We’ve benefited tremendously from his creative insights, his vast knowledge of international markets, and from is unique understanding of the technologies shaping the future. We look forward to continuing to work with Jim in a new strategic capacity after the close of his current contract.”
Rupert Murdoch described Gianopulos as “a close confidante” and praised him for such films as Titanic, Avatar and Deadpool. He also said that he has “the utmost confidence in the future of the studio under Stacey’s leadership.”
Acknowledging that “succession planning is hard, and in a creative enterprise like Twentieth Century Fox, we are very cognizant how tricky this can be,” Lachlan and James Murdoch expressed confidence in Snider, who they are putting in charge of the studio, while also taking the occasion to cite such other executives on the Fox team as 20th Century Fox production president Emma Watts, Gabler, Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley of Fox Searchlight, animation head Vanessa Morrison and international productions head Tomas Jegeus.
While studios usually trade in top execs in the wake of box-office failures, that isn’t the case this time around. For the current year, Fox ranks second only to Disney in terms of domestic box-office market share and has fielded such hits as Deadpool, which has grossed $775.7 million globally, and X-Men: Apocalypse, which currently stands at $483.6 million worldwide, while also releasing DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3, which has taken in $518.5 million.
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