The Walt Disney Co. has officially laid claim to the top-level executives at Fox that the company wants to keep once it finalizes its $71.3 billion acquisition for the majority of the Murdoch family’s entertainment assets — but Fox film chief Stacey Snider won’t be making the move.
That puts Snider, a well-liked and respected executive who has had stints running Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and currently 20th Century Fox, in play at a time when Hollywood is craving experienced leadership.
“Literally I’d be outside the lot right now with a lobster bib on,” REDEF CEO Jason Hirschhorn said at this month’s TheWrap-sponsored media and entertainment conference TheGrill.
The problem, however, is that there don’t seem to be a lot of clear landing places at the moment for an executive of her caliber, one who has taken successful risks on films such as “Deadpool,” “Hidden Figures” and “The Greatest Showman.”
“Her first thought is always going to be to work at a studio,” one studio executive told TheWrap. “I’m sure she’ll want to wait for a studio, I just don’t know what’s out there.”
Fox did not respond to requests for comment about Snider’s post-Fox plans, but interviews with Hollywood insiders suggest several paths for her once the Disney deal closes.
1. Another Major Studio
With her background, it would make sense that Snider would want to run another major studio. She’s been at the solo helm of Fox’s film studio since taking over in 2016 after the ouster of now-Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos. Before that, she served as co-chairman alongside Gianopulos.
During her tenure, the studio has struck gold with hits like the Ryan Reynolds’ R-rated “Deadpool” franchise, the R-rated “Logan” film (a send-off for Hugh Jackman), “Hidden Figures” and “The Greatest Showman.” In addition, the studio’s specialty banner Fox Searchlight nabbed the Best Picture Oscar for “The Shape of Water” — and two acting prizes for “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.”
“I know her very well, and she’s going to want to run a studio,” the insider told TheWrap. “But studio-wise, I don’t see anything out there.”
Indeed, the other majors all seem stable at the top. Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley oversaw the studio’s most profitable year in 2017, crossing $5 billion at the worldwide box office with slate of films that included “Split,” “Get Out,” “The Fate of the Furious” and “Girls Trip.”
Paramount is rebounding and producing hits again under Gianopulos; Sony just reinforced its faith in Tom Rothman by extending his contract for five years on the eve of breakout hit “Venom;” and AT&T retained Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara after its multibillion-dollar acquisition of Time Warner over the summer.
2. An Upstart Studio
With the major Hollywood studios locked up, Snider could turn to one of the town’s upstart studios. The insider suggested MGM, which has been run by an assortment of senior leadership and division heads known as the “Office of the CEO” since Gary Barber’s surprise ouster last March.
The James Bond studio has been working its way back to prominence since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, and has helped produced a number of high-profile films, including a minority stake in Warner Bros.’ hit “A Star Is Born.”
And last year, MGM inked a deal with Annapurna Pictures to return to domestic distribution while retaining control of major projects like next month’s “Rocky” spinoff sequel “Creed 2” and the upcoming 25th James Bond film, starring Daniel Craig.
Speaking of Annapurna, the Megan Ellison-run company lost its head of film Chelsea Barnard last week after parting ways with president Marc Weinstock in June. The company decided over the summer to dissolve Weinstock’s position and redistribute his duties, and Ellison now wants to take a more active role in the studio’s day-to-day as it looks to reevaluate the film division and rein in spending.
There’s also STX, which hasn’t filled the hole left by entertainment president Sophie Watts when she exited the company in January — if at this point STX even has a desire to replace her. CEO Robert Simonds is still running the company.
And Lantern Entertainment is still looking for a new CEO to relaunch the indie studio formerly known as The Weinstein Company, though it’s unclear how much Dallas-based Lantern Capital is interested in investing in a venture that’s well outside its usual wheelhouse as a middle-market private equity firm. The company emerged with TWC in a bankruptcy auction in April at a sale price later lowered to $287 million.
3. A Streaming Giant
The streaming giants all seem to be looking to make a big splash in film, which would make Snider a desirable commodity. Hirschhorn noted that she might be particularly needed at Hulu, which has been mainly focused on TV and documentaries.
But while companies like Netflix, Amazon Studios and Apple would likely benefit from bringing in an executive with experience running a major studio, most of the top jobs are already taken.
NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke took over at Amazon Studios in February months after the ouster of Roy Price in the midst of a sexual harassment accusation. While Amazon is searching for a new head of its film division since the exit of Jason Ropell in July, the insider said Snider is unlikely to want to report to Salke. (The division is currently being overseen in the interim by production chief Ted Hope and international distribution head Matt Newman.)
And Netflix seems to be doing just fine under the supervision of original films head Scott Stuber and chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
“I think she would consider one of the streamers if it was a big enough position,” the insider said. “Say, if Apple came and the guys over there needed a boss — but I don’t think they do.”
4. Start Her Own Thing
Snider could also become her own boss, partnering with finance types to launch her own production or distribution company. Roy Salter, a senior advisor at FTI Consulting, told TheWrap that an executive Snider’s caliber has endless opportunities in Hollywood.
“Capital, in my view, would be well served to strongly consider the judgment of this type of professional, particularly as there as so few possessing these abilities.” Salter said. “Judging by results, Stacey Snider is one of this industry’s unique professionals that possesses the ability to assess and manage the production and release of content that works both commercially and creatively.
“I would go further to say that Stacey knows how to manage content such as to facilitate positive social impact for the world,” he said “In the upcoming changes within media and entertainment, that type of professional has limitless opportunity.”
There are a lot of risks, however, in trying to get a new company off the ground — and the recent box office record of junior studios like STX and the financial struggles of Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Studios, Global Road and recently Annapurna are not exactly encouraging.
5. Stay on the lot
Another option for Snider would be the more traditional route for top studio executives who find themselves out of the corner office — setting up a production banner on the (soon-to-be Disney) lot.
Former Sony Motion Pictures Group head Amy Pascal transitioned into production after stepping down in the wake of the devastating studio hack. She’s since produced such films as “The Post,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Venom.”
Sue Kroll took a similar approach, launching her own production label Kroll & Co. Entertainment at Warner Bros. after stepping down as head of marketing and distribution in January. She’s an exec producer on the hit “A Star Is Born,” and has set up the upcoming female-led superhero flick “Birds of Prey” at the studio with Margot Robbie.
Disney has offered next to no details into how the Fox studio and its different banners would be incorporated into the new company and exactly what the layout and hierarchy of the studios will look like.
The insider told TheWrap that while it seemed unlikely that Snider would want to launch a full-fledged production shop, producing some films in partnership with a studio could be plausible — especially in the interim, until another top job opens up.