Jim Gianopulos Receives Top Taormina Award

Jim Gianapulos Taormina Award
John M. Heller/Getty Images

CEO of Twentieth Century Fox presides over a studio on a roll

Jim Gianopulos is riding a big wave of success.

The chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox — who oversees the motion picture divisions of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., which include Fox 2000, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox Animation Studios, Blue Sky Studios and Fox Intl. Prods. — has presided over the release of such hits as “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (which recently opened as the top grossing film in the world), “Life of Pi,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Taken” and its two sequels, “12 Years a Slave” and — of course — record-breakers “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

Upcoming projects include “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the third installment of “Night at the Museum” series, David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” and Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

And “The Fault in Our Stars,” starring Shailene Woodley, is a breakout hit.

Gianopulos will receive the Taormina Film Festival’s Arte Award — an honor that in the past has gone to such luminaries as Gina Lollobrigida, Miriam Makeba, Paul Schrader, Joel Schumacher, Andre Techine, Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise and Irene Papas.

The Fox exec offered his perspective on this honor to Variety:

As an Arte winner, you’re in good company. What does this award mean for you?

Sharing such an enormous honor with legends such as those who have preceded me is humbling and I am enormously grateful for it — although how I was chosen to be among them remains a mystery to me. It is also particularly special because it is set in one of the most beautiful places on earth, with a great legacy of art and a great love of cinema. It also takes place in a breathtaking amphitheater thousands of years old, which was begun by the Greeks and finished by the Romans. There may be some significance to that as well, but it speaks to both my heritage and a culture I truly love.

As overseas box office receipts continue to grow, how do international film festivals figure in Fox’s marketing and distribution strategy for its big movies?

For our tentpole films, such as “X-Men,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Avatar,” they can be populist showcases for fans to experience the films in a setting that celebrates cinema. Most often, they are opportunities to celebrate great talent, as it will this year for Ben Stiller, and particularly to provide a forum for lesser known specialized films to achieve critical and audience attention.

Do festivals also benefit smaller films?

We’ve (been) very successful over the years, in Taormina and in other festivals, with films like “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and especially “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a film acquired at a festival and which may have gone unnoticed without the extensive exposure at festivals all over the world.

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