Fox Promotes Snider to Replace Gianopulos as Film Unit Chief

  • Parent company calls studio change of guard normal succession
  • Exec who released ‘Titanic,’ ‘Avatar’ takes new strategic role

21st Century Fox Inc., the media group controlled by Rupert Murdoch, named Stacey Snider to lead its film division, succeeding Jim Gianopulos, who will move to a strategic role after bringing megahits like “Titanic” and “Avatar” to theaters.

The change was described by the studio as normal succession, coming almost two years after Snider, 55, joined Fox from DreamWorks Studios, according to a statement Thursday. Twentieth Century Fox, the film division, has enjoyed a surprise hit in theaters this year with the superhero picture “Deadpool,” and will release sequels to “Independence Day” and “Ice Age” this summer.

“Succession planning is hard, and in a creative enterprise like Twentieth Century Fox Film, we are very cognizant of how tricky this can be,” James Murdoch, chief executive officer of the parent company, and his brother, Lachlan, co-executive chairman, said in the statement. “We are enormously grateful to Jim for his approach to this challenge, and to Stacey, who joined us a few years ago as part of this process.”

Under Gianopulos, 64, and Snider, the studio is off to a strong start to 2016, with domestic box office receipts up 37 percent this year on the strength of “Deadpool,” according to Box Office Mojo. Next year Fox will revive the Ridley Scott epic “Alien” with a new installment, “Alien: Covenant.”

Film Career

Snider joined Fox in November 2014 as co-chairman of the studio with Gianopulos. She spent eight years as CEO and co-chairman of DreamWorks Studios, where she was a partner with Steven Spielberg. Before that she was chairman of Universal Pictures, where she originated and oversaw films including “The Bourne Series” and “American Pie.”

Her arrival came as the film division capped a record 2014 at the box office, with blockbusters “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

Last year was tougher, with domestic receipts down 27 percent to $1.42 billion, according to Box Office Mojo. Along with the company’s TV networks, the film division has been weathering corporate-wide efforts to reduce costs by $250 million through staff buyouts.

Rupert Murdoch, the company’s co-chairman and patriarch, described Gianopulos as a close confidant who had delivered “year after year.” A year ago the elder Murdoch appointed his sons, James and Lachlan, to the most senior posts at 21st Century Fox.

Gianopulos Reign

Under Gianopulos, the studio has had its most profitable years ever, according to the company’s website. He also championed two of the riskiest movies the studio ever released, “Avatar” and “Titanic,” which remain the two biggest films globally of all time, according to Box Office Mojo. He’ll move to his new role in June 2017.

Prior to his current post, Mr. Gianopulos served as president of Twentieth Century Fox International from 1994 to 2000, when he was elevated to studio chairman and CEO. Before joining Fox, Gianopulos held management positions at Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures, now part of Sony Corp, after beginning his career as an entertainment lawyer.

Among Snider’s future challenges will be to bring long-awaited sequels to “Avatar” to the big screen. The franchise is one of Fox’s most valuable. In April, director James Cameron announced that there would be four sequels slated for 2018, 2020 and 2023.

Under Gianopulos, Fox has been distributing films for DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. The independent film company was acquired by Comcast Corp., the parent of Universal Pictures, earlier this year.

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