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Emma Watts, Elizabeth Gabler, Fox Searchlight Heads Joining Disney

elizabeth gabler emma watts
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The Walt Disney Co. has unveiled the team of film executives it expects to import from 20th Century Fox.

Twentieth Century Fox Film vice chairman Emma Watts, Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler, and Fox Searchlight co-heads Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley will be making the move to the Mouse House. As expected, 20th Century Fox Film Chairman and CEO Stacey Snider will not join her colleagues. Snider has yet to announce future plans.

In addition, Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird, the co-presidents of Fox Animation, and Vanessa Morrison, the president of Fox Family, will continue on under the Disney ownership. Watts, Gabler, Gilula, and Utley will report to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Miloro, Baird, and Morrison will report to Horn and Watts.

Disney did not give the Fox executives new titles, nor did it fully explain what roles they would play. A major question in the pending acquisition is what form, if any, the Fox label will retain in the new structure. The announcement provided little answers, but Horn expressed delight in a statement that the incoming executives would join him “under the umbrella” of Walt Disney Studios.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has previously signaled that he intends to keep Fox Searchlight in tact under Gilula and Utley, whose speciality label pumps out prestige films that, more often than not, perform well at the box office.

Fox Animation has three projects in various stages of production, and Miloro and Baird are expected to see them through to release. Questions remain about the future of Fox Animation after that. Team Fox joins existing label heads like Kevin Feige at Marvel Studios, Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm, Sean Bailey at Disney Live Action and Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, respectively.

“The addition of these respected film groups under the umbrella of The Walt Disney Studios will create endless possibilities as we continue to deliver first-rate motion pictures to audiences around the world,” Horn said of the news.

The changes will take place after Walt Disney Co. closes its $71.3 billion acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets — expected to happen in January. The studio had been in a holding pattern for 10 months as its corporate fate hung in the balance. Disney’s initial all-cash $52.4 billion offer for Fox was trumped by Comcast’s later $65 billion bid. As the corporate battle played out, staffers were unsure who their new parent company would be, though in either scenario, they were expecting deep cuts. Indeed, analysts project that thousands of jobs will be lost as a result of the sale.

Last week, Disney revealed that it was bringing 21st Century Fox television executives Peter Rice, Dana Walden, John Landgraf, and Gary E. Knell over to the company. Rice and Walden will come aboard to lead the conglomerate’s non-sports television operations. Rice has been named chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks. Walden has been named chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. Landgraf will serve as chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions. Knell will serve as chairman of National Geographic Partners.

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