Fox Searchlight heads sign multiyear deals and get promotions

Fox Searchlight co-presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen A. Gilula at the studio's headquarters in Los Angeles on Jan. 24.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The heads of Fox Searchlight Pictures are extending their winning streak at the specialty film division as the Walt Disney Co. moves to acquire its parent company.

Stephen A. Gilula and Nancy Utley have signed new multiyear deals with 20th Century Fox Film, and are being promoted from co-presidents to chairmen of Fox Searchlight. The announcement was made Wednesday morning by Stacey Snider, who heads Fox Film.

The exact time frame of the deals wasn’t disclosed, and a representative for Searchlight didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The pair has led Searchlight since 2009.


In their new titles, Gilula and Utley will continue to report to Snider and oversee the specialty film business that has produced and released a slew of recent Oscar-winning titles, including last year’s “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The division has been on an Oscars hot streak in the past 10 years, racking up best picture wins for “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Birdman,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “The Shape of Water.”

Gilula and Utley will also shepherd Searchlight’s recently announced television division. Searchlight Television will be directly overseen by Searchlight’s presidents of production for film and television, Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum. The new division marks the first time that Searchlight has ventured into the world of television.

“The collaborative and innovative partnership that Nancy and Steve have created over the years is quite simply the gold standard in all of Hollywood,” Snider said in a statement.

Gilula and Utley said in a joint statement: “We are honored to continue the work of Searchlight, in collaboration with our brilliant filmmakers, aided by our extremely talented, hard-working and passionate staff, and with the deeply appreciated support of Stacey and all our Fox colleagues.”

Prior to leading Searchlight, Gilula served as president and chief executive of the Landmark Theatres cinema chain, which he co-founded in 1974. Utley started at Searchlight in 1999 after a tenure as a marketing executive at 20th Century Fox.

Disney is expected to acquire most of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets in a $7- billion deal, following Comcast’s decision to drop its rival bid last week. The acquisition will include Fox’s television and movie studios — including Searchlight — as well as the cable channels FX and National Geographic and other properties. Fox shareholders are scheduled to vote on the Disney deal on Friday.

Searchlight’s upcoming releases include “The Favourite,” a British period drama from director Yorgos Lanthimos starring Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. The movie will play at the Venice Film Festival and New York Film Festival prior to opening commercially in November.