Megan Ellison's Executive Poaching Spree Sparks Talk of Big Plans

Megan Ellison - Getty - H 2016
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Fox’s marketing chief and Sony games execs join Annapurna amid a ramp-up in film, digital and possibly much more.

On Nov. 7, 20th Century Fox marketing president Marc Weinstock became the latest in a string of executives to make the move to Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, joining onetime HBO president Sue Naegle and former Weinstein Co. distribution chief Erik Lomis.

The high-profile hires — particularly Weinstock and Lomis — have led to speculation that Ellison, 30, will move into full distribution. But according to a source, Ellison is thinking much bigger.

Four top Sony games execs, including designer Nathan Gary, also have quietly defected to Annapurna in recent months — a seemingly unlikely fit given Ellison's focus on adult-skewing indie dramas that risk-averse studios have largely abandoned.

But Ellison is said to be seeking to move aggressively into the mobile game and VR space and will leverage relationships with Hollywood auteurs to create content. Given that Ellison's father, Larry Ellison, made billions as the forward-thinking Oracle sultan, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Ellison wants Annapurna to be a player in digital storytelling. To that end, another big-name nonfilm hire is said to be imminent.

"She wants a content empire," says one source. "She wants the best people, and she's picking off the best people."

With Neagle in tow, Ellison is moving fast to establish her small-screen presence and is executive producing David O. Russell's untitled Amazon series starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore.

On the film front, Annapurna will expand its output, though the filmmaker-driven mandate will remain. Over its five years in business, the company has backed Oscar contenders like Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, Spike Jonze's Her and this awards season's animation play Sausage Party, but only one that has crossed the $100 million mark at the domestic box office (Russell's American Hustle). The company is in active development on Bennett Miller's A Christmas Carol and has Bigelow's untitled Detroit riots drama and Alexander Payne's Downsizing on the horizon in 2017. Agents say the company also is reviving a long-gestating Scott Free project about the Gucci family with Wong Kar Wai directing.

Annapurna declined comment.

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.