Universal Chairman Donna Langley Feted as Will Rogers Pioneer of the Year

Donna Langley - H 2015
Miller Mobley

The studio chief shepherded a record year in 2015, with Universal's movies grossing more than $6 billion at the global box office.

Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley was awarded one of the industry's highest honors Wednesday night as she received the Will Rogers Pioneer of the Year award.

Charlize Theron, star of Universal's upcoming The Huntsman: Winter's War, helped introduce Langley. "Donna has a storied 15-year run with Universal ... f— yeah," the actress said during the awards dinner in Las Vegas. "She's a sheep in wolf's clothing, an artist in a suit," Theron continued, saying Langley is one of a kind. "She's a hero, a goofball and a gangster."

Said Langley upon taking the stage, "It really is such a great honor to be here tonight. It's just an extraordinary event. I am deeply touched by this honor."

Langley is only the third woman to receive the Pioneer of the Year award in its 70-year history, following Kathleen Kennedy and Sherry Lansing.

Langley, now in her third year as sole chairman of Universal, oversees all aspects of the studio's production and marketing operations on the global stage, as well as Focus Features.

In 2016, Universal's slate generated more than $6 billion in revenue at the worldwide box office, an industry record (the previous mark was set by Fox in 2014 with $5.5 billion). The boom was led by Jurassic World, Furious 7 and Illumination Entertainment's Minions, all of which crossed $1 billion, the first time three titles from one studio have hit that milestone in a given year.

Other Universal hits last year included Fifty Shades of Grey, Pitch Perfect 2 and Straight Outta Compton.

Langley, who was named The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Executive of the Year in 2015, is credited with reinvigorating and growing some of Universal's most lucrative franchises, including the Fast & Furious and Bourne series.

Previous recipients of the Pioneer of the Year award include Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck, Jack Valenti, Terry Semel, Sumner Redstone, Alan Horn, Jeffrey Katzenberg and, last year, Jim Gianopulos.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Pioneers Assistance Fund (PAF), a charity that helps movie industry veterans who are encountering an illness, injury or life-changing event.