Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has re-upped production president Emma Watts to a new multi-year deal that will keep her in the post through 2015. The new deal was made by Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, co-chairmen and CEOs of Fox Filmed Entertainment. Since taking over as sole production president in 2009, Watts has made it a priority to populate the studio’s slates with elite filmmakers, and keep them coming back for more. The studio in past years had the reputation of being very hands-on. That kept budgets in check, but didn’t make Fox a haven for major directors.

That is changing, and the quality of the recent films released by the studio has improved. Fox has just closed a deal with Matthew Vaughn to come back and direct the sequel to X-Men: First Class, with Simon Kinberg writing the script and Bryan Singer back as producer. The studio is so delighted with the job that Josh Trank did on the upcoming under-$20 million thriller Chronicle that he is being eyed for a big assignment, possibly the reboot of Fantastic Four. The studio has made a priority of the sequel to last summer’s hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with Rupert Wyatt back behind the camera. Fox, after ending the year with the Cameron Crowe directed We Bought a Zoo, has the upcoming Ridley Scott-directed Prometheus; and the studio got Timur Bekmambetov to direct Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. That film was produced by Tim Burton, who will direct for the studio Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, with a script being written by X-Men: First Class scribe Jane Goldman. This year, Fox has Ben Stiller directing and starring with Kristen Wiig in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, has Michael Mann directing Go Like Hell, the duel between Ford vs. Ferrari for sports car supremacy in the 60s; is readying the movie transfer of the hit series 24 with Kiefer Sutherland for late spring. Fox-based filmmaker Shawn Levy will soon set his next directing effort for the studio, likely to be the Max Landis-directed Frankenstein. The studio is currently in production on the Akiva Schaffer-directed Neighborhood Watch, with Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill starring.

Watts joined Fox in 1999 as creative exec after serving stints at production companies run by Russell Simmons and Oliver Stone. She became co-president of production in 2007.