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Fox Searchlight Will Keep Doing ‘What It Does Best’ Under New Disney Ownership

On Tuesday afternoon's earnings call, Disney chief Bob Iger promised that the speciality division will be "supported" by new owners -- not changed.

Emma Stone stars in Fox Searchlight Pictures' "THE FAVOURITE."

“The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos

As the $71.3 billion sale of Rupert Murdoch’s Twentieth Century Fox movie and television assets to box office titan Disney moves forward, the question of what will happen to specialty distributor Fox Searchlight has been answered.

As IndieWire’s Anne Thompson noted last month, “So far, Disney executives have been friendly, but current Fox Film chairwoman Stacey Snider wasted no time announcing new multi-year deals — and exalted chairman titles — for 18-year Searchlight veterans Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley, riding high after their multiple Oscar wins for Best Picture winner ‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,’ which took home Best Actress for Frances McDormand. Both films topped $100-million worldwide.”

They needn’t have worried. During a Tuesday afternoon earnings conference call, Disney movie chief Bob Iger promised that Searchlight would continue its normal operations under the ownership of Disney. “It’s hard to argue that Searchlight needs help from anyone,” he said, pointing to the speciality outfit’s many Oscar wins. “Our strategy is to give the studio what it needs to support what it does best.”

The speciality division is already shaping up to have a high fall festival (and awards) profile, led by a buzzy Oscar contender from Yorgos Lanthimos, New York Film Festival opener “The Favourite,” a period royal intrigue starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, along with David Lowery’s romantic caper “The Old Man & the Gun,” starring Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek, and Marielle Heller’s true story “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” starring Melissa McCarthy as an author-turned-con-artist and Richard E. Grant as her boozy sidekick (it’s written by Nicole Holofcener).

Earlier this year, the outfit also opened Wes Anderson’s animation frontrunner “Isle of Dogs.” The company previously scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated feature for Anderson’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Over its tenure, Searchlight has won 36 Oscars out of 132 Oscar nominations, and scored a total 15 Best Picture nods, including four out of the past 10 Oscar winners, from “Slumdog Millionaire” and “12 Years a Slave” to “Birdman” and “The Shape of Water.” That’s not the business Disney is in, which puts Searchlight in the rare position of being allowed autonomy in an acquisition — there’s no duplication.

Earlier today, IndieWire exclusively reported that Fox Searchlight has partnered with “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” documentarian Matt Tyrnauer and his producing partner Corey Reeser to make a narrative biopic about subject Scotty Bowers’ racy adventures in Hollywood.

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