Magazine article Variety

21st Century Woman

Magazine article Variety

21st Century Woman

Article excerpt

It's easy to find Stacey Snider on any given Sunday. The chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox closes out her weekend with a trek to the AMC theater at Century City's Westfield mall to catch the latest bigscreen releases.

"I get the same seat, G13, where I can put my feet over the railing," says Snyder. "I love movies."

Yet, Snider has no illusions about the health of the movie business. Ticket sales are plummeting, weighed down by a glut of uninspired sequels, as Netflix, Amazon and other streaming platforms are rapidly ascending. The battle for audience attention has never been more intense and competitive.

"It's not business as usual at the studios," Snyder says. "We are in a unique time."

Since taking over as the sole head of Fox's film studio following Jim Gianopulos' ouster in the summer of 2016, Snyder has devoted herself to focusing on the kinds of films that are powerful enough to cut through the clutter in a digital world. That's included a pledge to get Fox better positioned in the highly profitable family film business with a renewed emphasis on the studio's animation division, as well as a bolder embrace of technology.

Before assuming control of the studio a year ago, Snider struggled with defining her role for the 22 months she worked as co-chairman under Gianopulos, who by most accounts was upset and threatened by her hiring, which had been engineered by Rupert Murdoch and blessed by his sons, James and Lachlan. Consequently, Snider clashed with Gianopulos' key division heads and devotees, Emma Watts and Elizabeth Gabler, and alienated some of Fox's biggest filmmakers, who along with other executives questioned her lack of creative initiative. Her supporters argued that she was stifled by her boss, whom she would eventually replace when the younger Murdochs began putting their own stamp on Fox and articulated the need for new leadership and fresh ideas at the film studio.

A year later, Snider can be credited with sparking several new creative and business initiatives, including striking a multiyear co-financing and distribution deal with "Avengers" directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo (see sidebar), and prompting Fox to acquire Technoprops, a virtual production company that has worked on blockbusters such as "Avatar" and "The Jungle Book." She believes the company can help revolutionize the films the studio makes. She's also made peace and has cultivated good working relationships with Watts and Gabler and other initial doubters at Fox.

In a two-hour interview, Snider reflected on her one-year anniversary as head of Fox's film studio, expounding on her plans to keep the operation competitive at a time when the industry is being roiled by changing consumer behavior and technological advances.

Was it hard to assume power as Jim Gianopulos was being pushed out?

I felt incredible empathy and compassion for all of us. It was an incredibly awkward situation. The only thing that I can do in those moments is be truthful and acknowledge the discomfort.

When you joined the studio, were you at odds with powerful executives like Emma Watts and Elizabeth Gabler?

Whatever issues there were between many of us at Fox in those early days were part of the narrative that was imposed. Within a month of me joining Fox, a journalist from another publication literally said to me, "Wow, there are a lot of blondes there." It took my breath away, that comment. It made me realize that the narrative was prepackaged.

So you think it was sexism?

I do. I don't think there's ever an issue about how many receding-hairline men there are at a company. You'd never make that comment, but the idea of girls pulling each other's hair and getting into a catfight is a familiar trope. I resist it. I deny it. I'm a mom of two daughters, and I was raised by a feminist mom. I marched with her for women's rights. [The media had] a pull-up-a-lawnchair, grab-a-wine-cooler and watch-thesoap- opera-at-Fox type of glee that was in many ways fabricated. …

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