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Stacey Snider to replace Jim Gianopulos as Fox studio chief

Jim Gianopulos will oversee Paramount's film and television operations worldwide.

Jim Gianopulos will oversee Paramount’s film and television operations worldwide.

(Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Turner)

Media giant 21st Century Fox is replacing the longtime chief of its movie studio, marking the latest move by Chief Executive James Murdoch and Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch to put their stamp on the company.

Twentieth Century Fox Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Gianopulos will step down from his post next year after working at the company for a quarter of a century, Fox said Thursday. He will be replaced by Stacey Snider, who was brought on less than two years ago as co-chairman, serving as Gianopulos’ No. 2.

Gianopulos, 64, will relinquish his position in June 2017 after his contract expires, the company said. He will then take on a “new strategic role,” though details of that position were not disclosed.

The elevation of Snider, 55, comes after Fox acknowledged earlier this month that as many as 400 employees of the movie studio and TV operations would exit after receiving lucrative buyouts offered to longtime staff members, with the aim of cutting $250 million in costs. The workforce reduction included the departure of many on Gianopulos’ team at the Century City studio.

The company has been undergoing structural changes as James and Lachlan Murdoch, sons of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, put their imprint on operations and attempts to reshape the organization for the digital age. James became CEO about a year ago, replacing his father. Lachlan Murdoch became the company’s executive chairman, alongside Rupert.

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“Succession planning is hard, and in a creative enterprise like Twentieth Century Fox Film, we are very cognizant of how tricky this can be,” said James and Lachlan Murdoch in a joint statement.

Before she joined Fox in late 2014, Snider was co-chair and chief executive of Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios, which is separate from DreamWorks Animation. Before her tenure at DreamWorks, she led Universal Pictures. As CEO of Fox, she would be one of only two female executives running a major studio, joining Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley.

“This is the right job for her, and she should be head of a studio,” said Laura Martin, a media analyst for Needham & Co. who covers the company. “Kudos to them for seeing that.”

A respected movie business veteran, Gianopulos has led the studio since 2000. He served as sole chairman of 20th Century Fox after his longtime counterpart Tom Rothman was ousted in 2012.

Snider’s eventual elevation had been telegraphed by the company when she was first named co-chair in 2014.

Nonetheless, studio insiders said the period of transition had been awkward, as Snider tried to find her footing within a studio that has well-defined divisions, each operating under powerful executives.

Production President Emma Watts oversees the studio’s tent-pole films, Elizabeth Gabler runs the literary-skewing division Fox 2000, and Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley head specialty arm Fox Searchlight. The studio had come under pressure to better define Snider’s role and establish a clear succession plan.

“It’s interesting, but not shocking,” said Brian Wieser, a media analyst at Pivotal Research, of the succession plan announcement.

Fox enjoyed a record year at the box office in 2014, but its ticket sales were lower last year thanks to a relative lack of blockbuster franchise movies. It had a major presence during the most recent awards season with “The Revenant” and “The Martian,” which were each nominated for multiple Oscars and were considered commercial successes.

“Deadpool,” an, R-rated comic-book movie that cost just $58 million to make, grossed a surprising $760 million this year. But this summer’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” has not performed as well domestically as 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

The announcement of leadership changes at Fox is the latest high-level executive change at a major studio during a period of upheaval and digital disruption in Hollywood. Sony Pictures Entertainment recently restructured its top ranks in both its film and television units, with TV Chairman Steve Mosko and motion picture President Doug Belgrad announcing their departures earlier this month.

Viacom Inc. is embroiled in a closely watched power struggle over who will lead the media company that owns struggling movie studio Paramount Pictures. And at Walt Disney Co. it remains unclear who will replace CEO Bob Iger after his contract expires in 2018. Iger’s assumed successor, Chief Operating Officer Thomas Staggs, was ousted earlier this year.

ryan.faughdner@latimes.com

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

3:10 p.m.: This story was updated throughout. This story was originally published at 12 p.m.


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