After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982 and receiving a JD degree from UCLA Law School in 1985, Stacey Snider began her career in movie production by working in the mailroom of the Triad Agency. She then became an assistant at Simpson-Bruckheimer Productions, and in December 1986, at the age of twenty-six, Snider became the director of development at Guber-Peters Co. at Warner Brothers. In 1990 Snider was named executive vice-president of the company and two year later she became the highest-ranking female executive at a Hollywood studio when she was named President of Production at Tri Star. In 1999, she became the CEO of Universal Pictures, and she presided when the studio became the first in history to have five $100 million films in one summer and the first in history to have five $100 million dollar films at the international box office in the same year.
Education and Early Career
A 1982 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Stacey Snider received a JD degree from UCLA Law School in 1985. She began her career working in the mailroom of the Triad Agency. She then became an assistant at Simpson-Bruckheimer Productions. In December 1986, at the age of twenty-six, the bright and beautiful law school graduate became the director of development at Guber-Peters Co. at Warner Brothers.
Snider was said to be a good worker, with excellent taste in material and eager to please. She soon became a protégée of Peter Guber, who was on the way to a leading position. In 1990 she was named executive vice-president of Guber-Peters Entertainment Company, which was by then owned by Sony Entertainment. She both ran the company and stayed involved in production at Columbia Studios. She had a reputation for having Peter Gruber’s ear, so that much of the work was advanced by her.
Leadership at Tri Star and Universal
In 1992 Snider became the highest-ranking female executive at a Hollywood studio when she was named President of Production at Tri Star. She also gave birth to two daughters during this period and was open to the press about the difficulties of balancing her high-powered professional life with raising children. However, like many other women of her generation working in Hollywood, she resisted being labeled a female executive or drawing attention to her gender.
At the end of 1999 she became the CEO of Universal Pictures. She was an activist against the unethical tactics employed by Oscar competitors (most notably Miramax, owned by Disney) to damn Ron Howard’s semi-biopic of schizophrenic Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash, Jr., A Beautiful Mind. She spoke out publicly and to the press, stating that “the lines that should be clear to all of us have recklessly been crossed.” Her stand raised the ire of Harvey Weinstein of Miramax, who blamed Stacy Snider for the story that he was behind a whispering campaign to impugn A Beautiful Mind.
In her position as CEO, Snider backed away from expensive movie stars. Her greatest talent is in building top-notch marketing teams that specialize in selling less expensive concept films, such as the teen surfer film Blue Crush. During her tenure, Universal experienced a remarkable turnaround with a consistent output of domestic and international box office hits that included the Academy Award-winning films A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, Erin Brockovich, and The Pianist. She presided when the studio became the first in history to have five $100 million films in one summer and the first in history to have five $100 million dollar films at the international box office in the same year. Focus Features, the Universal Studio’s answer to independent film production and distribution, released The Swimming Pool, as well as the critically acclaimed Lost In Translation and Sylvia in 2003. In 2002 Snider appeared second in The Hollywood Reporter’s list of the “hundred most powerful women in Hollywood,” a testament to the authority and respect she commands in the movie world.
Awards and Honors
Unlike her colleague Amy Pascal, who cites the late Columbia studio chief Dawn Steel as a mentor, Snider, like Sherry Lansing, learned the business from some of its toughest male players. Both of them protégées of modern-day movie moguls, they emerged with their humanity intact. Snider maneuvered gracefully through the several years of turmoil when the French company Vivendi bought Universal and later was forced to sell it off as a result of the post 9/11 economic downturn. It has been reported that she gets on well with Barry Diller, the newly installed corporate watchdog.
In addition to her many professional achievements, Snider serves on the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics in Southern California, by whom she has been honored, and the American Film Institute. She is also on the Board of Trustees of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. She was honored by the American Jewish Committee with the Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Human Relations Award for her professional and civic endeavors, which have helped to promote tolerance and understanding.
Stacey Snider lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.