With the upcoming merger between Time Warner and AT&T more shake-ups are occurring at Warner Bros. Pictures.
The latest news spinning out of this shake-up comes with the announcement that Toby Emmerich has been promoted to the position chairman of the motion picture group, with marketing-distribution head Sue Kroll stepping down for a more production oriented deal.
Emmerich will now officially be leading the major film studio, with oversight from Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who also is in charge of the TV and video game divisions. According to the studio, Emmerich will have the authority to approve or deny a film for production.
Meanwhile, Kroll will be leaving her post as Warner Bros. head of marketing-distribution and transitioning into the production side as per a 3-year deal that starts in April. Her former duties as head of marketing-distribution will be passed on to Blair Rich and Ron Sanders, two veteran Warner Bros. executives. Ron Sanders, who was previously the head of home-entertainment, will report to both Kevin Tsujihara and Toby Emmerich as the president of worldwide distribution. Blair Rich will report solely to Toby Emmerich as the president of worldwide marketing.
The shake-up is happening in the midst of multinational conglomerate AT&T vying to complete it’s $85 billion acquisition of Warner Bros. parent company, Time Warner. However, the future and success of the merger has been called into question by the United States Department of Justice who filed a lawsuit in November of last year citing anti-trust provisions as cause for the intervention. A trial is expected to take place at some point in March.
Kroll is expected to stay on board to oversee awards campaigns and the release of the upcoming Spielberg film Ready Player One, which releases on March 30th. The first two films that Kroll is set to serve as producer on is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star Is Born and an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel A Motherless Brooklyn.
The executive shake-up is one of the largest in the company’s history since the studio last enacted a triumvirate-style of leadership in 2015, with Emmerich, Kroll, and Greg Silverman at the forefront. Silverman left the studio two years ago.
Kroll is often regarded as “one of the most experienced executives” in Hollywood, having been employed by Warner Bros. for the last twenty years. Blair Rich, who has been mentored by Kroll as her deputy has gained a significant of respect at the studio and is a rising star among his fellow executives.
As for Kevin Tsujihara, his future at the studio is uncertain and is solely dependent on the success or failure of the AT&T/Time Warner merger. As per the arrangements of the merger, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes will resign if the merger succeeds in court. The studio does not disclose the length of the contracts of it’s executives but an inside source with knowledge of the executive has stated that he has at least two years left on his contract. This news comes two months after a rumor had surfaced from an inside source that was covered by popular culture news site Up Your Geek stating that Kevin Tsujihara was set to resign if the deal succeeds.
Either way, Tsujihara will step back from the day-to-day operations of running the major film studio, in favor of Emmerich, who oversaw the sleeper hit It which became one of the most profitable movies last year. It earned $700 million at the worldwide box office with a $35 million budget.
“We need to constantly adapt our operations to stay ahead of [these] changes, while preserving our creative excellence,” Tsujihara said in a statement. “Bringing together film and home entertainment marketing and distribution will allow us to strategically manage film titles through their entire lifecycle. We’ll be better able to respond to consumer demand, while still creating unique theatrical and home entertainment experiences, and provide increased benefits to our filmmaking, exhibition and retail partners.”
Emmerich said, “I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity to help continue Warner Bros. Pictures’ legacy of creativity, innovation and excellence. We will remain focused on being the first choice for the world’s best filmmakers, whether they’re making their first film or their 34th. “
Michael Wolff, author of the controversial Fire and Fury book has cited in numerous interviews that White House advisers have said that the $85 billion dollar acquisition is “never going to happen.”
Others have disagreed with the comments of the advisers on the grounds that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson publicly praised President Donald J. Trump’s tax bill, citing that it has created thousands of jobs at his company. Business and economic analysts have suggested that Stephenson was attempting to establish an olive branch with the White House in the hopes that a settlement can be facilitated to guarantee that the Department of Justice will allow the merger to pass through the courts.
Warner Bros. came in second for film studio market share last year after the success of Wonder Woman and Warner Bros. sub-division New Line’s sleeper hit, It.
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