Fox Film Chief Jim Gianopulos to Exit Early (EXCLUSIVE)

Jim Gianopulos Leaving Fox Movie Studio
Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Twentieth Century Fox Film chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos will be exiting the studio early, it announced on Tuesday.

The studio chief is departing Sept. 1 after being pushed aside in June in favor of Stacey Snider.

“We are incredibly grateful to Jim for his many contributions to our film business over his storied career at the studio and wish him much success on his next endeavors,” said Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch in a statement. “We are fortunate to have Stacey with us to lead the studio into its next chapter and are confident we will see great success under her headship.”

“I am so grateful to Jim for his guidance and friendship since I joined Fox,” said Snider. “We will all miss his wisdom and business instincts and wish him the best in whatever endeavors he takes on next. I am truly excited to embark upon this new challenge and look forward to building upon, with all my colleagues, the awesome legacy 20th Century Fox has carved into the foundation of this industry.”

Gianopulos himself issued a statement on Tuesday: “After 25 years at the studio, and 16 years as Chairman/CEO, I have experienced the greatest joys, successes and thrills that this business can offer. I am grateful for the opportunities the Murdochs have afforded me, and to all of my friends and colleagues at Fox, past and present. I am confident that the studio will flourish with the films Stacey and I have put in production and development, together and the films she and Fox’s great executives and filmmakers will produce in the future. I will miss the place where I have spent the majority of my career, and I wish everyone at Fox the best of success, health and happiness going forward.”

When Snider was announced as the sole chairman and CEO of the film studio, Fox initially said that Gianopulos would remain at the helm until his contract expired on June 30, 2017, at which point he would transition to an undefined “strategic” role at the company.

However, Gianopulos, who has had success and enjoyed running the studio solo after co-chairman Tom Rothman was ousted in 2012, is anxious to begin his next chapter, say people familiar with the executive’s thinking.

Gianopulos, who has been on vacation in Greece, is expected to return to work this week, when settlement negotiations are expected to be finalized. He will not be continuing in a consulting role.

He and Murdoch brothers James and Lachlan, now taking an increasing role in overseeing the studio, also did not want the studio chief to have a prolonged “lame duck” tenure at Fox.

“It’s a situation now that doesn’t work for Jim or for Stacey or for the company,” said one insider, who declined to be named. “As you get closer to his end date, people are looking to the next boss for direction.

“It doesn’t make any sense for him to be there and put something into development, for instance, when everyone knows that he will not be there to greenlight the movie or to see its production.”

Gianopulos has enjoyed deep relationships with a number of key filmmakers, among them “Avatar’s” James Cameron and “The Martian’s” Ridley Scott, so his departure will be deeply felt. He also boasts an expansive knowledge of the global film business from his years spent heading up Fox’s international theatrical business. The movie industry has grown increasingly reliant on international sources of revenue as the domestic box office has sputtered, making Gianopulos an attractive asset for any number of Hollywood companies.

During his 16 years as head of the movie studio, Fox has scored big with hits like “Avatar,” “Deadpool,” “The Martian” and the “X-Men” films. Additionally, as the studio’s conduit to Silicon Valley, Gianopulos has helped guide Fox through massive industry headwinds and technological disruption.

He is most frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for top posts at Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. There are reasons why either perch would make sense. Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, has just ousted its former CEO Philippe Dauman, and any replacement might be inclined to put their own person in charge of the Hollywood studio. Paramount is currently overseen by Brad Grey, but the studio has fielded a number of box office misfires of late, including current money loser “Ben-Hur,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” and “Zoolander 2.”

Warner Bros. has had its own struggles. The studio currently operates under a tripartite structure under Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara, with production chief Greg Silverman, marketing and distribution head Sue Kroll, and New Line leader Toby Emmerich, helping call the shots. There is not one driving creative and business force overseeing operations — a role Gianopulos could potentially fill. In the past, Tsujihara has said he was content with the three-headed management structure.

Rupert Murdoch and his sons have endorsed the idea of Snider taking over for Gianopulos ever since she joined Fox in 2014. She previously served as CEO of  DreamWorks, where she had a decidedly mixed track record, and previously she ran two other studios, Universal Pictures and TriStar Pictures, before she joined DreamWorks in 2006.