Annapurna president of film Chelsea Barnard has exited the studio, according to an insider at the company.
Barnard had been championing two films at Annapurna “The Hustlers at Scores” and an untitled Fox News film about the sexual harassment scandal that engulfed former chairman Roger Ailes. The projects weren’t working for the studio, the insider said.
The company declined to comment.
Megan Ellison will take a more active role in the studio’s day-to-day in Barnard’s absence, the insider said.
Barnard was promoted to president of film in January 2017, having been with Annapurna since the company’s founding. Her promotion came in the wake of a slew of new hires, including Marc Weinstock as president, and who left in June of this year. Weinstock had only been with the company for two years.
Then in July, Josh Small, Annapurna’s CFO who had joined the company in 2015, was plucked by Blumhouse Productions to be its new chief financial officer. James Pong was promoted in Small’s place.
The Fox News project was meant to focus on the sexual harassment scandal from the point of view of the women who took on the toxic male culture of Fox News, ultimately leading to Ailes’ downfall. It is set to star Charlize Theron, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie. Malcolm McDowell joined the project on Monday, playing Fox chief Rupert Murdoch. “The Big Short” writer Charles Randolph is writing and Jay Roach is set to direct.
But financing for the film didn’t come together for Annapurna. A person familiar with the project told TheWrap that there were budget issues. But the budget was approved by the studio as recently as last week, another person familiar with the project said, adding that there may be other issues at Annapurna beyond the budget.
Universal’s indie and foreign film arm Focus Features is in the mix to pick up the film, as well as Amblin and Participant Media.
Canadian-based Bron Studios will likely co-finance production, with a production budget said to be north of $35 million. Annapurna would no longer have any involvement with the film.
“The Hustlers at Scores” is in advanced talks to move to STX Entertainment, an insider said, after Annapurna dropped out as producer and distributor, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Jennifer Lopez stars in the film that centers on a group of exotic dancers who get their revenge on wealthy, drunk and abusive clients by maxing out their credit cards after they’ve passed out. The project was in the script stage with production expected to begin early next year but was dropped by Annapurna over creative differences, according to an insider.
The project is set up at Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gloria Sanchez Productions. Lopez and her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas are currently taking meetings to find a new distributor.
Annapurna earlier this year released the Sundance hit “Sorry to Bother You” with Lakeith Stanfield, Armie Hammer and Tessa Thompson.
It also has several anticipated titles in the can, including “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Richard Linklater; “If Beale Street Could Talk” from Barry Jenkins; and Karyn Kusama and Nicole Kidman’s cop thriller “Destroyer.”