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Annapurna Ups Sue Naegle to Chief Content Officer, Names Ivana Lombardi President of Film

Sue Naegle has been named chief content officer at Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

Naegle joined the company as head of television in 2016, and will now oversee development and production in film, TV, video games, and the company’s theater division. As part of the reorganization, Ivana Lombardi has been named president of film, a role vacated by former executive Chelsea Barnard last year.

Lombardi hails from Chernin Entertainment, where she oversaw the movies “St. Vincent” and “Hidden Figures.” She will work closely with Jillian Longnecker, who has been named president of physical production. Patrick Chu, who joined Annapurna from Amazon last week as a senior vice president in TV, will continue to report to Naegle.

Naegle’s first order of business is investing heavily in development and production for the backend of 2019, she said, as well as supporting their first-look partners Plan B Entertainment and Pastel. Her goal is set at three-to-five features per year for theatrical and streaming partners. No deal is currently set between Annapurna and a digital player.

“What we’re doing now, which is what all major studios are doing, is looking critically and carefully at the marketplace, and where a movie is best served,” Naegle told Variety. “Even though we did have some changes in the fall, this awards season represents one of our strongest years creatively and financially. We’re still about artists first.” 

The new executive workflow comes as a pledge from Ellison to stabilize her film group after Barnard’s departure, which occurred at the same time the Oscar-winning indie house withdrew from a movie about Roger Ailes and mounted its most ambitious awards slate to date. They pulled it off. Annapurna collected 11 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, for titles including Adam McKay’s “Vice,” Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and the Coen brothers original “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

While Naegle focuses on the slate, Annapurna will release Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, “Booksmart,” out of SXSW in April, as well as “Wounds,” a horror follow-up from Babak Anvari, the acclaimed director of “Under the Shadow”; and Richard Linklater’s latest, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” with Cate Blanchett.

“I could not be more thrilled for this next chapter of Annapurna. I am very confident about our future, especially with Sue’s expanded leadership. I believe this new team of incredible women including Ivana Lombardi and Jillian Longnecker is a strong one, and one with impeccable taste and relationships. Their deep love for filmmaking is one that I share, and I am excited to be working alongside them to preserve the mission of this company and bring forth synergy across all of our divisions,” Ellison said in a statement.

Elsewhere in the company, Annapurna Theater is serving as co-producer for the National Theatre’s production of “Network,” starring Bryan Cranston and directed by Ivo van Hove. They are lead producer on the upcoming stage adaptation of “Fleabag,” written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and directed by Vicky Jones.

In the gaming division, Annapurna Interactive, they account new games in the “Gorogoa,” “Florence,” “Ashen,” and “Donut County” franchises to incredible commercial and critical acclaim. Annapurna Interactive took home two BAFTA Awards for best game and best debut game, for “What Remains of Edith Finch” and “Gorogoa,” respectively. Naegle will help oversee the adaptation of the division’s IP with the hopes of channeling their stories across various media.

Ellison will remain CEO of Annapurna, where she will continue to lead the direction of the company, and play an active role in creative and business decisions, and greenlighting projects across all divisions.

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