Disney Announces Successors to Searchlight Co-Chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula

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Chris Lindahl
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Disney announced that Searchlight Pictures chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula are retiring from the specialty label after more than two decades. The company announced that they will be succeeded by their lieutenants, Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum.

Utley and Gilula, along with Peter Rice, joined Searchlight in 1999, with Rice as president. The pair were named presidents of the studio in 2009 after Rice left to join Fox’s television division. (He is now chairman of Walt Disney Television.) Utley and Gilula were made chairmen in July 2018, when Greenfield and Greenbaum were appointed to a shared role of presidents of film and television.

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Greenfield and Greenbaum will now lead Searchlight, which has been under the Disney umbrella since the company acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019. They will report to Disney Studios Content chairman Alan Bergman and Disney Studios Content chief creative officer Alan Horn.

The announcement comes just days before the 93rd annual Academy Awards on April 25. Searchlight’s “Nomadland” is favored to capture a number of its six nominations, which include Best Director for Chloe Zhao as well as Best Picture.

“Thanks to the stewardship and pitch-perfect creative instincts of Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, Searchlight has cemented itself as one of the finest film studios in history, and we commend and thank them for their incredible leadership, especially throughout the integration of Searchlight at Disney,” Bergman and Horn said in a statement. “They are leaving the studio in the talented hands of Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum, who have been a critical part of Searchlight’s success over many years and we’re confident they will continue to set a course that keeps Searchlight on the industry’s leading edge.”

Founded by Tom Rothman in 1994, Searchlight amassed an impressive 40 Academy Awards in its three-decade history, including four Best Picture winners since 2009: “Slumdog Millionaire,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman,” and “The Shape of Water.”

“Our time at Searchlight has been the kind of career highlight one can only dream of in this business,” said Utley and Gilula. “Over the past 21 years, we’ve had the privilege to build and lead an incredible team, and work with brilliant artists, to take creative risks, champion stories we’re passionate about, and, along the way, make iconic films that will stand the test of time. We’re so proud of how this studio has grown and evolved over the years, and we’re ready to pass the torch to carry on the Searchlight legacy.”

Under Disney, Searchlight has moved into other modes of distribution beyond theatrical through a partnership with Hulu. Best Picture nominee “Nomadland,” for example, was released day-and-date on the streaming platform and in theaters that were open amid the pandemic. In countries without Hulu, the film was released on Disney+.

Searchlight’s upcoming films include Taika Waititi’s “Next Goal Wins,” Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” Questlove’s “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Michael Showalter’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” David Bruckner’s “The Night House,” and Scott Cooper’s “Antlers.”

Upcoming projects from Searchlight Television, which was launched in 2018, include Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Man in the Rockefeller Suit,” the Theranos-focused limited series “The Dropout,” and Darren Aronofsky’s “Boss of the Beach.”

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