Searchlight’s deputies shine

Utley, Gilula expand roles

Fox Searchlight is promoting execs Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula to chief operating officers, continuing to report to prexy Peter Rice.

Moves mean Gilula and Utley, who had been presidents for distribution and marketing, respectively, will be more involved in other areas of the company, including productions and acquisitions.

Rice was recently tapped by 20th Century Fox to head up a new division within the studio that will target young auds as well as experiment with alternative distribution channels beyond theaters.

Promotions solidify management at Searchlight as Rice begins to divide his focus between the two companies.

“Nancy and Steve’s campaigns have redefined the specialized film business over the past five years. This promotion allows them to apply their innovation and experience throughout the organization,” Rice said in a statement.

“I don’t think there will be a dramatic change (at Searchlight) from the outside world,” Gilula said. “It should be a very smooth transition.”

Utley said the moves “allow Peter to work with Searchlight and also with the new unit. He’s hoping that Steve and I will handle more of the day-to-day operations.”

Beyond her present areas of oversight, Utley said she will take a larger role in overseeing productions while Gilula will become more involved in financing and foreign distribution.

Utley was named marketing prexy in 1999 after working 13 years elsewhere at 20th Century Fox, including as exec VP of marketing. Before joining the studio she worked in advertising, including as a senior VP of new biz at BBDO.

Before Searchlight, Gilula was chief exec and prexy of Landmark Theaters, a chain he co-founded in 1974, overseeing its growth from the single screen at the Nuart in L.A. to a 140-screen circuit. He started his career as a buyer for the San Francisco circuit of United Artists Theaters.

Searchlight’s 2006 slate includes Jason Reitman’s “Thank You for Smoking”; Judi Dench/Cate Blanchett starrer “Notes on a Scandal”; Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine”; Mira Nair’s adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake”; Richard Linklater’s feature adaptation of “Fast Food Nation”; “The Last King of Scotland,” starring Forest Whitaker; “Trust the Man,” starring Julianne Moore and David Duchovny; and Russian sci-fi blockbuster “Night Watch.”

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