Breaking: Disney’s Live-Action Film Boss Sean Bailey Exits – What’s Next for the Company?

Sean Bailey, a high-ranking executive at Walt Disney Co. who was responsible for overseeing the company’s live-action films, is resigning from his position, the entertainment behemoth based in Burbank revealed on Monday.

David Greenbaum has been chosen for the newly formed role of head of Disney live action and 20th Century Studios, with responsibility for film projects across both divisions for cinematic and streaming releases. After 14 years of leadership, Bailey is leaving his post.

Speculation of a major shift in the administration of Disney’s live-action film division has been circulating, particularly in light of the poor performance of some recent film releases.

Under Bailey’s leadership, a series of blockbuster live-action adaptations were produced, including “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Lion King,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The majority of these films grossed over $1 billion globally at the box office, with last year’s “The Little Mermaid,” bringing in $560 million (despite struggling in international markets).

Regardless of the prominent successes, Bailey’s unit was responsible for last year’s box office disappointment, “Haunted Mansion,” a film inspired by the famed Disneyland theme park ride.

Bailey’s contract was set to terminate next January, and there were rumors of talks with Netflix executives about him assuming a top film role there. Although Bailey isn’t anticipated to transfer to Netflix’s Sunset Boulevard campus, the revelation of these discussions sparked significant introspection by Bailey and Disney’s upper management concerning the studio’s live-action film approach and project pipeline, as per a well-informed source unauthorized to speak publicly.

According to the company’s announcement, Bailey, who had no interest in renewing his contract, will return to his original role as a producer for Disney’s “Tron: Ares.”

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Greenbaum, the newly appointed leader, previously held the position of president at Searchlight Pictures, where he co-managed the studio’s film and TV projects with Matthew Greenfield, who will maintain his role as president of Searchlight Pictures. Disney obtained the specialty label as part of its $71.3-billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox properties from Rupert Murdoch almost five years ago.

Searchlight has a history of awards success, and Greenbaum played a key role in overseeing numerous feature films, including Academy Awards winners “The Shape of Water” and “Nomadland.” He also contributed to the development of Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things,” which is currently an Oscar nominee for best picture. His other notable contributions include “The Menu,” “The Favourite,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Black Swan.”

Prior to joining Searchlight over ten years ago, Greenbaum served as a development executive at Miramax Films.

“David possesses a striking creative sensibility and a keen eye for film. He has proven himself as a remarkable leader and creative executive through his work at Searchlight Pictures and the strong relationships he has built in the industry,” Alan Bergman, co-chairman of Disney Entertainment, said in a statement.

“I am delighted that he will be assuming this new and critical role. It’s been our good fortune to have a talented creative leader like Steve Asbell at 20th Century, and I look forward to seeing him work in collaboration with David as we take a more strategic approach across both brands from a creative and operational perspective. I also want to express my gratitude to Sean Bailey for his significant contributions and leadership during his time at Disney.”

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In a statement, Bailey expressed that the timing was right for him to move on and wished Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, Bergman and others “a prosperous future.”

“My 15 years at Disney have been a remarkable journey, but the time has come for a new beginning,” Bailey said. “I’m deeply thankful to my incredible team and proud of the roster and legacy we’ve established together. Since I joined Disney while producing Tron: Legacy, it feels appropriate that I will have the chance to work on the latest Tron as I leave.”

Netflix has yet to announce a successor for its film head, Scott Stuber, who declared his departure from the streaming service last month. A spokesperson for Netflix was not immediately available for comment.

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