Walt Disney Studios

Sean Bailey Leaving Walt Disney Studios, Searchlight Pictures’ David Greenbaum Taking His Place

Things are changing for the Walt Disney Studios live-action division. Sean Bailey is leaving the top spot and is being replaced by David Greenbaum from Searchlight Pictures. Bailey has run Disney’s live-action studios for 15 years. Greenbaum was co-president of Searchlight Pictures with Matthew Greenfield.

Greenbaum’s new position is a new role. He will be President, Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios. In this role, he will report to Disney Entertainment co-chairman Alan Bergman. Steve Asbell will continue to be president for 20th Century Studios and Greenfield will be president for Searchlight Pictures. He will report to Greenbaum.

Disney announced that Greenbaum will be leading “a combined studio group that will be home to both iconic film brands, producing a robust collection of original and legacy projects unique to each for theatrical and streaming, while increasing collaboration across the production slate.”

The news comes as the live-action movies for Disney have been underperforming. While Disney films have not met the mark, Searchlight Pictures have been seeing success both at the box office and also in the awards show circuit.

“David has an incredible creative sensibility and eye for film, and he has built a reputation as an exceptional leader and creative executive, as proven by his track record at Searchlight Pictures and deep relationships throughout the industry,” said Alan Bergman in a statement. “I’m thrilled that he’ll be taking on this new and important role. We’ve had the great fortune to have a strong creative leader in Steve Asbell at 20th Century, and I’m excited for him to work closely with David as we take a more strategic look across both brands from a creative and operational standpoint. I also want to thank Sean Bailey for his many contributions and leadership over his tenure at Disney. Searchlight remains in excellent hands under the guidance of Matthew Greenfield.”

Greenbaum shared his gratitude today saying, “I want to thank Bob Iger and Alan Bergman for the extraordinary opportunity to continue the legacy of fabled and groundbreaking storytelling at both Disney and 20th Century – it’s an honor and responsibility I don’t take lightly, and I’m eager to get to work with Steve Asbell and the teams. At the same time, the last 14 years working alongside and in partnership with my dear friend and colleague Matthew Greenfield have been unforgettable – Searchlight and the incredible team there remain the gold standard for quality in our business, and I look forward to watching their continued success in the years to come.”

Bergman also spoke about Bailey and his continued role producing Tron: Ares. “Sean has been an incredibly important member of the studio’s creative team for well over a decade,” said Bergman. “He and his team have brought to the screen iconic stories and moments that have delighted fans around the world and will stand the test of time. I know he’ll continue to do great things, and I couldn’t be happier that he’s staying on as a producer of Tron: Ares.”

“These 15 years at Disney have been an incredible journey, but the time is right for a new chapter. I’m deeply grateful to my exceptional team and proud of the slate and history we’ve built together,” said Bailey. “I joined Disney while producing Tron: Legacy, so it seems fitting that I will have the opportunity to work on the latest Tron as I depart. I wish Bob Iger, Alan Bergman, and all my amazing colleagues the very best for a bright future.”

Up until recently, Bailey had a very strong track record at Disney. Under his watch, Disney released hits like The Lion King ($1.66 billion in global box office), Beauty and the Beast ($1.2 billion), Aladdin ($1.05 billion) and The Jungle Book ($962 million) to name a few. In total, movies released while Bailey oversaw the studio garnered over $7 billion. He also helped develop live action content that ended up on Disney+ during his tenure.

Greenbaum is seen as bringing a fresh approach to the studio. He has deep relationships with multiple filmmakers. He will be able to bring a different approach to a studio that has been relying heavily on franchises. This comes as Disney seeks to reset its successes as it is facing down a proxy war from two fronts ahead of its annual shareholder meeting next month. Disney has been taking actions to show it is on the path to success for its shareholders.

What do you think about this change at Disney? Do you think it is good for the future of Disney live-action films? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!


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