Fox Femmes: Studio tops in female prexies

Women's Impact Report: Exceptional Execs

In an industry often criticized for being dominated by men, 20th Century Fox’s film studio has no fewer than six female presidents holding forth over all production and marketing.

Their handle on the production reins is particularly impressive, and sets the studio apart.

Last November, Emma Watts became sole president of production for Fox proper, making her one of the most powerful females in Hollywood. She previously shared the gig with Alex Young.

Elizabeth Gabler continues to run the show at Fox 2000, where her official title is president of production, and it’s impossible to separate Gabler’s tastes and sensibilities from the label itself.

Under Gabler’s tutelage, Fox 2000 has turned out such signature hits as “Walk the Line”and “The Devil Wears Prada,” while upcoming titles include the bigscreen adaptation of “Water for Elephants,” starring Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and Robert Pattinson.

At Fox Searchlight, Claudia Lewis, who is president of production, oversees the specialty unit’s slate, which includes the just-released “Never Let Me Go,” based on the book by “Remains of the Day” author Kazuo Ishiguro and starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and rising star Andrew Garfield, and the upcoming “Conviction,” starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell.

The unit also recently scored on the festival circuit with a duo of films that will only add weight to its awards-season hopefuls: “127 Hours,” from the “Slumdog Millionaire” team of director Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson, d.p. Anthony Dod Mantle and composer AR Rahman, Oscar winners all; and “Black Swan,” Darren Aronofsky’s followup to “The Wrestler” that was one of the most buzzed-about films at Toronto.

Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos have moved aggressively when it comes to promoting women and allowing them opportunity.

When Young stepped down in November 2009, they opted to give Watts full responsibility, instead of finding another co-prexy.

“It is always especially gratifying when we can turn to the strength of our bench to promote the next generation of star executives and, in the process, reward outstanding achievement,” Gianopulos and Rothman said in promoting Watts.

When Chris Meledandri ankled several years ago as topper of Fox Animation Studios to start up an animation venture for Universal, Gianopulos and Rothman tapped Vanessa Morrison Murchison to replace him. Like Watts, Morrison had first joined Fox as a creative exec years before.

And upon Peter Rice’s departure from Fox Searchlight to run Fox Broadcasting, Nancy Utley was named president of Fox Searchlight, alongside Steve Gilula. Previously, Utley had led the unit’s marketing department.

In recent years, women have been making impressive gains in terms of leading studio marketing efforts, including at Fox, where Pamela Levine rose to co-president of domestic theatrical marketing in 2002, working in tandem with Tony Sella.

The pressure on the studio to find its next hit after “Avatar” is particularly keen, but Fox has one of the biggest fall/winter release schedules among the majors, including the recent “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” the upcoming Denzel Washington starrer “Unstoppable,” Ed Zwick’s “Love and Other Drugs” (with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway), “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and “Gulliver’s Travels,” with Jack Black.

The Fox women, clearly, are shaping the future of films coming out of Tinseltown.