Searchlight heads Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley to retire

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Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula, the duo that for twenty years have led one in every of Hollywood’s most profitable status movie corporations, are stepping down.

Utley and Gilula on Tuesday introduced their retirement as chairmen of Searchlight Footage, recognized for shepherding Oscar winners “Slumdog Millionaire,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman” and “The Form of Water.”

Their exit, anticipated to take impact in June, comes simply days forward of the 93rd Academy Awards, the place Searchlight movie “Nomadland” is taken into account the favourite to win greatest image.

If “Nomadland” prevails Sunday, it will likely be the unit’s fifth best-picture victory since 2009. An awards season stalwart, the Walt Disney Co.-owned firm has received 40 Oscars because it was based as Fox Searchlight Footage in 1994 (then led by Tom Rothman, who now runs Sony Footage’ film enterprise) because the indie movie arm of the bigger Fox empire.

Disney acquired Fox Searchlight in 2019 as a part of its blockbuster $71-billion buy of Rupert Murdoch’s twenty first Century Fox leisure property.

The deal spurred hypothesis about what would turn out to be of the indie movie enterprise beneath the company umbrella of Disney, which except for its animated films and “Black Panther” hadn’t been on the forefront of the awards season dialog because it owned Miramax.

Different Fox movie teams have been pared down or dismantled within the merger’s aftermath. Elizabeth Gabler’s Fox 2000 was shut down, and twentieth Century Fox, the “Avatar” and “Alien” studio casually referred to as “Huge Fox,” noticed its output diminished. Within the newest instance, Disney not too long ago introduced that animation studio Blue Sky, producer of the “Ice Age” franchise, would shut down.

However with the shut of the Disney-Fox deal pending, Utley in late 2018 expressed confidence that Fox Searchlight, contemporary off a bevy of Oscar nominations for films together with “Three Billboards Exterior Ebbing, Missouri,” would proceed to thrive.

“The indicators from Disney, each private and non-private, have been that they recognize the flicks we make,” she instructed The Occasions at her workplace on the Fox Studios lot.

And Searchlight, which dropped the Fox moniker after becoming a member of Disney, has continued to be a formidable participant among the many indie studios and specialty labels. Its opponents embody hip distributors resembling Neon and A24, streamers together with Netflix and fellow corporate-owned indie shingle Sony Footage Classics.

Utley and Gilula’s retirement is the most recent govt shakeup for Disney, which can be within the midst of a shift to a streaming-first mannequin centered on Disney+. “Nomadland,” directed by Chloé Zhao, was launched in theaters and on the Disney-owned streamer Hulu.

Bob Iger stepped down as chief govt of the Walt Disney Co. final yr to turn out to be govt chairman, and he has confirmed that he’ll formally retire on the finish of this yr. Alan Bergman in December was named chairman of Walt Disney Studios (the unit that features Searchlight, Pixar, Marvel and different studios), changing Alan Horn, who’s now chief inventive officer.

Longtime Searchlight executives Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum, at present heads of manufacturing of the unit, have each been promoted to president, Disney stated.

“Due to the stewardship and pitch-perfect inventive instincts of Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, Searchlight has cemented itself as one of many best movie studios in historical past, and we commend and thank them for his or her unimaginable management, particularly all through the mixing of Searchlight at Disney,” Bergman and Horn stated in a joint assertion.

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