Searchlight Pictures

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Searchlight Pictures
FormerlyFox Searchlight Pictures (1994–2020)
Company typeSubsidiary
FoundedApril 29, 1994; 29 years ago (1994-04-29)
FounderTom Rothman[1]
Headquarters10201 West Pico Boulevard, ,
Area served
Key people
ProductsMotion pictures
Number of employees
ParentFox Entertainment Group (1994–2019)
Walt Disney Studios (2019–present)
DivisionsSearchlight Television[a]

Searchlight Pictures is an American film production and distribution arm of Walt Disney Studios, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company's Disney Entertainment division. Founded in 1994 as Fox Searchlight Pictures for 20th Century Fox (later 20th Century Studios), the studio focuses primarily on producing, distributing, and acquiring specialty films.

Searchlight is successful for distributing the films Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave, Birdman, The Shape of Water, and Nomadland, all of which have won an Academy Award for Best Picture. The studio has grossed over $5.3 billion worldwide and amassed 30 Golden Globe Awards, 51 BAFTA awards, and 46 Academy Awards. Slumdog Millionaire is the studio's largest commercial success, with over $377 million (US) of box office receipts, against a production budget of only $15 million.[3]

Searchlight Pictures was one of the 21st Century Fox film production companies that was acquired by Disney in 2019. The studio's current name was adopted in order to avoid confusion with Fox Corporation. Compared to 20th Century Studios, whose distribution operations have folded into Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Searchlight retains its autonomous distribution unit.[4]


Before the creation of Searchlight[edit]

Logo used as Fox Searchlight Pictures from 1995 to 2020.

Prior to the creation of Searchlight, 20th Century Fox was active in the specialty film market, releasing independent and specialty films under the banner of 20th Century-Fox International Classics, later renamed 20th Century-Fox Specialized Film Division, then TLC Films. The most notable of the releases under these banners include Suspiria, Bill Cosby: Himself, Eating Raoul, The Gods Must Be Crazy, Reuben, Reuben, and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.[5]

In the early 1990s, 20th Century Fox executives decided to emulate the commercial success of Disney's newly acquired Miramax studio. In 1994, 20th announced the formation of a subsidiary that would drive their entry into the specialty film market, and in July that year, they brought in Thomas Rothman, then president of production at The Samuel Goldwyn Company, to head up the new subsidiary. It was soon given the name "Fox Searchlight Pictures", with Rothman as its founding president.[6][1] The new company inherited the familiar branding elements associated with 20th Century Fox; Fox Searchlight films opened with a production logo consisting of the "Fox Searchlight Pictures" name presented as a large monolith, illuminated by the eponymous searchlights and accompanied by the 20th Century Fox fanfare composed by Alfred Newman.[7][8]

First years and 21st Century Fox era[edit]

From its first release, The Brothers McMullen (1995), Fox Searchlight went to distribute a series of independent films such as Girl 6, Stealing Beauty, and She's the One (all 1996).[9] While critically well received, these early releases were not commercially very successful; Fox Searchlight's first real commercial breakthrough came with The Full Monty (1997), garnering the studio's first awards.[10]

In 2006, a companion label, Fox Atomic, was created to produce and/or distribute genre films.[11] Fox Atomic closed down in 2009.[12]

On June 28, 2012, Rupert Murdoch announced that Fox Searchlight's owner News Corporation would be split into two publishing and media oriented companies: the second News Corporation, which takes on the publishing and Australian broadcasting assets, and 21st Century Fox, which operated Fox Searchlight parent Fox Entertainment Group. Murdoch states that the 21CF name was a way to maintain 20th Century Fox's heritage.[13][14]

Fox Stage Productions was formed in June 2013.[15] The creation of 21st Century Fox was completed on June 28, 2013.[16] In August 2013, 20CF started a theatrical joint venture with a trio of producers, both film and theater, Kevin McCollum, John Davis and Tom McGrath.[17]

Disney era[edit]

Logo used from January 29, 2020 to present. (primary logo)

On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company agreed to acquire most assets from 21st Century Fox, including Fox Searchlight, for $52.4 billion.[18] After a bid from Comcast (parent company of NBCUniversal) for $65 billion, Disney counterbid with $71.3 billion.[19] On July 19, 2018, Comcast dropped out of the bid for 21st Century Fox in favor of Sky plc and Sky UK. Eight days later, Disney and 21CF shareholders approved the merger between the two companies.[20] On March 12, 2019, Disney announced it has set to close the Fox deal on March 20.[21][22] On March 19, 2019, 21CF spun off the remaining assets the Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Television Stations, the Fox News Group (which includes the Fox News Channel), and the domestic operations of Fox Sports to the new Fox Corporation in preparation for the completion of the sale, which occurred the following day.[23][24][25] The following day it was announced that Fox Searchlight Pictures would be situated under The Walt Disney Studios banner and several high profile layoffs occurred.[26]

As of November 2019, FX Networks and Fox Searchlight were assigned to supply Hulu with content.[27] On January 17, 2020, it was announced that the "Fox" name would be dropped from several of the Fox assets that were acquired by Disney, shortening the company's name to "Searchlight Pictures", in order to avoid brand confusion with Fox Corporation.[28][7]

More recently, Nancy Utley has officially left Searchlight Pictures after six months, to launch Lake Ellyn Entertainment, and struck a first look deal with Chernin Entertainment.[29] Disney elevated David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield, the then-current heads of production.

Film library[edit]


Since 1994, Searchlight Pictures has accumulated 187 Academy Award nominations with 46 wins (including five Best Picture winners since 2009),[30] 117 Golden Globe nominations with 30 wins,[31] 190 BAFTA nominations with 51 wins,[32] 68 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations with 12 wins,[33] 215 Critics Choice Award nominations with 55 wins,[34] and 137 Independent Spirit Awards nominations with 54 wins.[35]

Related units[edit]

Searchlight Television[edit]

Searchlight Television is the television production division of Searchlight Pictures. Launched in April 2018, Searchlight Television broadens the variety of projects produced under the Searchlight banner. It is headed by David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield.[36][37]

Both original material and adaptations of Searchlight's existing film library will be produced for cable, streaming and broadcast television, in the form of documentaries, scripted series, limited series and more. In April 2019, the Hulu streaming service ordered The Dropout, starring Amanda Seyfried from Searchlight Television and 20th Television.[38] The studio is also developing an adaptation of the City of Ghosts novel with ABC Signature and an adaptation of N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy with Westbrook Studios.[39][40] In October 2021, Hulu ordered a sequel series to the Mel Brooks film History of the World, Part I from Searchlight Television and 20th Television.[41]

Searchlight Shorts[edit]

In March 2019, the studio launched Searchlight Shorts, a collection of short films that the studio would acquire from upper-tier festivals and release on their YouTube channel. The first two films to be acquired by the studio for this collection were Shelly Lauman's Birdie and Guy Nattiv's Skin, the latter of which won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Other acquisitions for the collection included A. V. Rockwell's Feathers, Matthew Puccini's Lavender, Freddy Macdonald's Sew Torn, Savanah Leaf and Taylor Russell's The Heart Still Hums and Julia Baylis and Sam Guest's Wiggle Room.[42][43][44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The original website of Searchlight Pictures "" now redirects to or its regional affiliates such as



  1. ^ a b "Executive Profile: Thomas E. Rothman". Archived from the original on May 18, 2010. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
  2. ^ "Company Overview of Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc". Bloomberg News.
  3. ^ "Slumdog Millionaire (2008)". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 30, 2020). "Emma Watts Leaves Disney's 20th Century Studios". Deadline. Retrieved February 3, 2020. Post-merger, Fox Searchlight, now re-branded Searchlight Pictures, enjoys a lot of autonomy in the Disney empire, greenlighting pics they know and operating their own distribution, publicity and marketing teams. 20th Century Studios (which recently dropped the Fox) was melded into the bigger Disney fold, fusing all its operations.
  5. ^ Tzioumakis 2013, pp. 55–58.
  6. ^ Tzioumakis 2013, pp. 135.
  7. ^ a b Barnes, Brooks (January 17, 2020). "Disney Drops Fox From Names of Studios It Bought From Rupert Murdoch". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  8. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 17, 2020). "Fox Removed From 20th Century & Searchlight Logos As Disney Updates Labels". Deadline. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  9. ^ Tzioumakis 2013, pp. 141.
  10. ^ Tzioumakis 2013, pp. 134.
  11. ^ Walsh, Mark (July 20, 2006). "Fox Atomic Unveils Broadband Site". Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  12. ^ Miller, Ross (April 21, 2009). "20th Century Fox Closing Down Fox Atomic". Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  13. ^ Welch, Chris (May 9, 2013). "21st Century Fox logo unveiled ahead of News Corp split". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  14. ^ Rushe, Dominic (June 18, 2013). "Rupert Murdoch splits empire but keeps faith in tomorrow's newspapers". The Guardian. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  15. ^ Gerard, Jeremy (July 28, 2015). "Fox Names Isaac Robert Hurwitz To Head Live Theater Division". Deadline. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  16. ^ "News Corp officially splits in two". BBC News Online. June 28, 2013.
  17. ^ Cox, Gordon (August 8, 2013). "Kevin McCollum: Fox Finds Its Stage Coach". Variety. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  18. ^ Snider, Mike (December 14, 2017). "Disney to buy key 21st Century Fox assets for $52.4 billion". USA Today. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  19. ^ "Comcast bids $65 billion for 21st Century Fox assets, topping Disney". CNBC. June 13, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  20. ^ Chmielewski, Dawn C.; Hayes, Dade (July 27, 2018). "Disney And Fox Shareholders Give Historic Merger Votes Of Approval – Update". Deadline. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  21. ^ Hayes, Dade; Patten, Dominic (February 27, 2019). "Disney-Fox Deal Nears Final Approval After Progress In Brazil And Mexico". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  22. ^ Petski, Denise; Hayes, Dade (March 12, 2019). "Disney Sets March 20 Closing Date For 21st Century Fox Acquisition". Deadline. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  23. ^ Littleton, Cynthia; Steinberg, Brian (March 18, 2019). "Fox Corporation Emerges as Standalone Entity, Paul Ryan Joins Board". Variety. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  24. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (March 12, 2019). "Disney Sets March 20 Closing Date for 21st Century Fox Acquisition". Variety. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  25. ^ Szalai, Georg; Bond, Paul (March 20, 2019). "Disney Closes $71.3 Billion Fox Deal, Creating Global Content Powerhouse". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 20, 2019. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  26. ^ Hipes, Patrick (March 21, 2019). "After Trying Day, Disney Sets Film Leadership Lineup". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 27, 2019. Fox Animation (including Blue Sky Studios) will continue to be led by Co-Presidents Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird.
  27. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (November 7, 2019). "FX to Produce Original Series for Hulu as Brands Become More Closely Intertwined". Variety. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  28. ^ Vary, Adam B. (January 17, 2020). "Disney Drops Fox Name, Will Rebrand as 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures". Variety. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  29. ^ Donnelly, Matt (October 27, 2021). "Former Searchlight Chief Nancy Utley Enters First-Look Deal With Chernin, Netflix". Variety. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  30. ^ "Browser Unsupported - Academy Awards Search | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  31. ^ "Winners & Nominees 2020". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  32. ^ "BAFTA Awards". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  33. ^ "The 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards | Screen Actors Guild Awards". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  34. ^ "Critics Choice Awards | Critics Choice Awards". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  35. ^ "History". Film Independent. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  36. ^ Fleming, Mike (April 11, 2018). "Searchlight Launches TV Division; David Greenbaum, Matthew Greenfield Upped To Production Presidents For Film, TV". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  37. ^ Bradley, Laura. "What Searchlight's New TV Division Means for the Future of Prestige TV". Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  38. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (April 10, 2019). "Hulu Orders 'The Dropout' Limited Series Starring Kate McKinnon As Elizabeth Holmes From Searchlight TV". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  39. ^ Otterson, Joe (March 11, 2021). "'City of Ghosts' Series Adaptation in the Works at ABC Signature, Searchlight Television (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  40. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 12, 2021). "N.K. Jemisin's 'The Inheritance Trilogy' To Be Developed As TV Series By Searchlight TV & Westbrook Studios". Deadline Hollywood.
  41. ^ Otterson, Joe (October 18, 2021). "'History of the World Part II' Variety Series Ordered at Hulu, Mel Brooks to Write and Executive Produce (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  42. ^ "Film News Roundup: Fox Searchlight Launches Searchlight Shorts". March 19, 2019.
  43. ^ "Searchlight Acquires Sundance Short Film 'Wiggle Room'". The Hollywood Reporter. March 3, 2021.
  44. ^ "Fox Searchlight Acquires Freddy Macdonald 'Sew Torn' Short". March 4, 2019.


External links[edit]