Friday, May 7, 2021

Two Hollywood Executives, Escape in Awards and Administration, Step Aside

Los Angeles – One of corporate Hollywood’s most enduring dual acts is calling it quits.

Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, its senior executives at Searchlight Pictures for 27 years, shaped the global culture with the Oscar winner, such as “12 years a Slave, “”Black swan, “”The Grand Budapest Hotel“And”Slumdog Millionaire, ”Announced his surprise retirement on Tuesday. They will leave the Disney-owned exclusive studio by the end of June, adding a specific change of guard at the Walt Disney Company.

“You don’t want to be a show that is too long on season two to air,” Ms. Utley said. “Go outside while everything is still going well.”

She was joking – mostly. Searchlight has long been the gold standard of art film studios, packing its slate with diverse offerings long before Hollywood, got memos, and thriving in a changing market – the DVD collapse, the rise of streaming competitors – even That once formidable Weinstein Company Stuck. If the latest searchlight success, “Itinerant, “Wins Academy Award for Best Picture on Sunday,” As expected, Mr. Gillula, 70, and Ms. Utli, 65, have won top awards at four of the last eight ceremonies. It is a run unmatched by a specialized studio, even Miramax, which won three Best Picture Oscars at its height.

Searchlight’s previous best-picture winners included “Water size“(2018),”Birdman“(2015) and” 12 Years Ek Das “(2014). Won” Slumdog Millionaire “in 2009.

Sunday, however, could mark a symbolic change in Hollywood: If the searchlight loses, it will likely be for Netflix, which could win its first Academy Award for Best Picture for it.Chicago 7 test“Netflix has been chasing such a victory for years as the ultimate symbol of supremacy in Hollywood.

Searchlight is rising to the challenge of streaming. “Nomadland” from a Chinese-origin filmmaker Chloe Zhao, The Disney streaming service was released in theaters and in Hulu. But competition with Amazon, Apple and Netflix for talent and content – and their seemingly bottomless purse – has become harder and harder. This has made the art film market more precarious for traditional studios such as Searchlight, which will now be run by current presidents David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield.

“Every time my contract ended, frankly, I always questioned if I had the gut fate to fight through the next set,” Mr. Gilula said. “Eventually, pride and loyalty kept me up. And there has always been another great film in the pipeline. Well, after ‘shape of water’, maybe ‘after’Three billboards. ‘ but it’s. With ‘Nomadland’, which shows that we have not lost our edge at all, there is a great sense of satiety after being quickly prepared for the epidemic. “

Mr. Gilula and Ms. Utley are leaving at Disney amid an extensive brain drain. Robert aThe executive chairman departs in December after 26 years in the company. Alan F. HornThe top creative executive at Walt Disney Studios is heading towards retirement, as did Disney’s top lawyer, Alan N. Braverman. Jenny Parker, Disney’s powerful human resources chief, will step down in June after 33 years at the company.

“The people you mentioned have contributed powerfully – excluded themselves; I am not talking about myself in this regard – for the success of the company, and have prepared the people behind it who will hold the post, ”said Mr. Eger. “I try to reduce people’s concerns as much as possible. This is certainly a premature way of expressing concern. “

Searchlight was one of those properties Disney acquires Rupert Murdoch In 2019, Mr. Iger, who made the deal, praised Ms. Utli and Mr. Gilula. He said, “It really takes very little time to get these small but extremely high quality films to market, and he has done his PhD in it. ”

Does his retirement indicate a change in direction for the searchlight? The mini-studio, which has around 100 employees, is beloved by fans of big-time cinema, especially as Hollywood has tended more towards franchise films of all audiences.

“No, of course not,” Mr. Eger said. “We have not been particularly vocal about this, but we intend to play a large part in the supply of content for searchlight, not only for theaters but our streaming platforms. We are going to invest more and more. Expect more production rather than less. “

Upcoming searchlight films include “Heat of soul, “A documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival from Ahm Thompson in 1969, known as Questlove; Wes Anderson’s” The French Dispatch “, a comedy-drama-romance; and Guillermo del Toro’s” Nightmare Alley, ” “About a manipulative carnival worker. Searchlight also has six television shows with stars and directors including Keira Knightley, Yorgos Lanthimon and”the favorite”) And Darren Aronofsky.

All have previously worked with Searchlight.

“When I started in the American film industry in ’93 -96, I often heard the word ‘family’ to describe film studios:” We are a family here, “Mr. Del Toro said.” In my experience, What the Manson Family Should Have Mean. But not with Searchlight. It’s a true family that nurtures you. “

Mr. Del Toro, who wrote and directed “The Shape of Water”, continued: “I remember him pitching the story – it was a huge gamble! Most studios would be nothing! – and by the end I cried , And then they cried, and they said, ‘Go make your film.’

Ms. Zhao said she was impressed that Mr. Gilula and Ms. Utley had met with her for an hour “months” every week as the searchlight moved towards an epidemic-friendly distribution and marketing plan for “Nomadland” Worked as Frank MacDormand, a bereaved van resident.

“I always hear horror stories about how, in some studios, once you finish your film you don’t know where it’s going – what’s up with it,” Ms. Zhao said . “Not only was I informed in the searchlight every week, I was allowed to be a big part of all decision making.”

Mr. Gilula and Ms. Utli agreed to a theatrical release, even though it was a money-losing proposition due to the epidemic. Ms. Zhao said, “They don’t say, ‘We have a system that works for us, that’s how you’re going to work.” “They really listened to us and trusted us.”

Searchlight was founded in 1994 Thomas E. Rothman, Who is now Sony’s film head. At the time, Special Films – Autorier Minded Cinematic Trinkets – was making money at the box office. “The Full Monty”, released by Searchlight in 1997, cost $ 258 million to make and $ 3.5 million worldwide (about $ 430 million in today’s money). Over the years, market conditions changed, particularly in the late 2000s, when an economic downturn dried up production financing.

Such as competitor Rogue picture, Paramount convenience, Picturehouse And Miramax Away, Ms. Utli and Mr. Gilula kept the searchlight alive. His specialty is marketing, script and casting. He is a distribution ace who co-founded the Landmark Theaters series in 1974.

“There’s never been a spreadsheet that Steve didn’t fall in love with,” Ms. Utley said dryly.

In addition to the exquisite cinematic taste, two executives, who both hail from the Midwest, are the rarest of species in Hollywood: really good people. Neither craves the spotlight. He is widely known in the film industry for promoting awards with integrity.

“Hopefully, we have set an example,” Mr. Gilula said, “showing that you don’t have to be another type of person to succeed in this business.”

Both insisted that Disney’s acquisition of Searchlight (called Fox Searchlight while owned by Mr. Murdoch) played no part in their decision to retire.

“We were disappointed at Fox because Fox didn’t have a streaming strategy and the marketplace was too slow to respond to the changes,” Ms. Utley said, “I think the transition to Disney has gone really smoothly, Which is one reason I have all faith in the future of Searchlight. “

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