Searchlight Pictures Co-Chairmen Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula to Step Down

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Matt Donnelly and Brent Lang
·3 min read
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Indie film stalwarts Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula are retiring as co-chairmen of Searchlight Pictures.

The longtime executives and producers behind the unit, formerly Fox Searchlight, will be replaced by executives David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield. Utley and Gilula each served more than two decades at the label, offering consistency and prestige cinema through ownership changes and market transformation. The news comes as Searchlight’s “Nomadland” is heavily tipped to win Best Picture at this Sunday’s Oscars.

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Greenbaum and Greenfield, equally long-serving heads of production, have been elevated to co-presidents and will report to Disney Studios Content chairman Alan Bergman and chief creative officer Alan Horn. The Walt Disney Company purchased Searchlight as part of its 2019 deal for the Murdoch family’s entertainment assets.

“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,” said Bergman and Horn. “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.”

Searchlight has an enviable and eclectic library that includes Best Picture winners “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Shape of Water,” “Birdman,” and “12 Years a Slave.” They also count impactful indies like “The Full Monty,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Thirteen,” “Napolean Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Black Swan,” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Searchlight titles have grossed over $5 billion worldwide, earning 28 Golden Globe Awards, 49 BAFTA awards, and 40 Academy Awards total.

In a joint statement, Utley and Gilula said their time at Searchlight has been “the kind of career highlight one can only dream of in this business. 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.”

Additional changes in the unit include an expanded role for Rebecca Kearey, who will now head business operations and international marketing. Creative executives Katie Goodson-Thomas and DanTram Nguyen remain in their film development and production roles. All three will report to Greenbaum and Greenfield alongside marketing heads Michelle Hooper and Larry Baldauf, acquisitions lead Chan Phung, and Searchlight Television leads Gina Kwon and Jennifer Gonsky.

The extended leadership includes head of business affairs Paul S. Hoffman, head of physical production Elizabeth Sayre, head of music Danielle Diego, finance lead Marnie Duda, casting lead Yesi Ramirez, and media and strategy lead Rob Wilkinson. Frank Rodriguez continues to lead Searchlight Pictures distribution as part of DMED’s Platform Distribution division.

In their own statement, Greenbaum and Greenfield said the team built by Utley and Gilula “reflects the honesty, transparency, and integrity with which they have led, and to which we aspire moving forward. With the foundation laid by them and the continued support of Alan Bergman, Alan Horn, and everyone at Disney, Searchlight is primed for its next exciting chapter.”

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