Nancy Utley Stephen

Source: Screen International

Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley

In a surprise announcement in the run-up to Sunday’s Oscars where Searchlight Pictures is in contention with awards heavyweight Nomadland, chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula are to retire from the specialty division after more than two decades.

Longtime Searchlight production heads Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum have both been promoted to president, Searchlight, and will jointly run the company. They report to Disney Studios content chairman Alan Bergman and Disney Studios content chief creative officer Alan Horn.

The shake-up brings an expanded role for respected president of Searchlight Pictures international Rebecca Kearey, who now adds business operations and international marketing to her remit.

Creative executives Katie Goodson-Thomas and DanTram Nguyen will continue in their film development and production roles.

Kearey, Goodson-Thomas, and Nguyen will report to Greenbaum and Greenfield alongside marketing heads Michelle Hooper and Larry Baldauf, acquisitions lead Chan Phung, and Searchlight Television leads Gina Kwon and Jennifer Gonsky.

Utley and Gilula joined what was then known as Fox Searchlight Pictures in 1999 alongside president Peter Rice. They were promoted to presidents after Rice departed in spring 2009, and in 2018 were named chairmen after leading distribution, marketing and production.

Since the company was founded by Tom Rothman in 1994 its films have grossed more than $5bn worldwide and garnered 40 Oscars, 49 Baftas, and 28 Golden Globes.

The studio’s four best picture winners since 2009 are: Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years A Slave, Birdman, and The Shape Of Water.

“Thanks to the stewardship and pitch-perfect creative instincts of Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, Searchlight has cemented itself as one of the finest film studios in history, and we commend and thank them for their incredible leadership, especially throughout the integration of Searchlight at Disney,” said Bergman and Horn.

“They are leaving the studio in the talented hands of Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum, who have been a critical part of Searchlight’s success over many years and we’re confident they will continue to set a course that keeps Searchlight on the industry’s leading edge.”

“Our time at Searchlight has been the kind of career highlight one can only dream of in this business,” said Utley and Gilula. “Over the past 21 years, we’ve had the privilege to build and lead an incredible team, and work with brilliant artists, to take creative risks, champion stories we’re passionate about, and, along the way, make iconic films that will stand the test of time. We’re so proud of how this studio has grown and evolved over the years, and we’re ready to pass the torch to carry on the Searchlight legacy.”

“First and foremost, we want to thank Nancy and Steve for their years of leading the most dynamic specialty film company in the world,” said Greenbaum and Greenfield. “While their track record speaks for itself, Steve and Nancy’s passion, intelligence, and vision are second to none. The fiercely loyal team they’ve built reflects the honesty, transparency, and integrity with which they have led, and to which we aspire moving forward. With the foundation laid by them and the continued support of Alan Bergman, Alan Horn, and everyone at Disney, Searchlight is primed for its next exciting chapter.”

The extended Searchlight leadership team includes head of business affairs Paul S. Hoffman, head of physical production Elizabeth Sayre, head of music Danielle Diego, finance lead Marnie Duda, casting lead Yesi Ramirez, and media and strategy lead Rob Wilkinson.

Frank Rodriguez continues to lead Searchlight Pictures distribution as part of DMED’s Platform Distribution division.

Searchlight’s upcoming release slate includes Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Sundance selection Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), David Bruckner’s The Night House, Michael Showalter’s The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, Scott Cooper’s Antlers, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins.