Warner Bros. Discovery’s film studio management structure is taking shape, sources with knowledge of the matter tell The Hollywood Reporter, as the executive team of Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy have reached a deal to run Warners and New Line as soon as Amazon releases them from their contracts at MGM — as soon as next month.
Toby Emmerich, who has been running Warners and New Line since 2017, will exit that role but received a production deal with Warner Bros. Discovery. “I have no doubt he will deliver even more exceptional, one-of-a-kind stories in his new capacity, and I look forward to continuing our working relationship for many years to come,” Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav wrote in a memo to staff on Wednesday.
After De Luca and Abdy depart MGM, their direct reports will report to Julie Rappaport, under Jen Salke’s oversight, on an interim basis until Mike Hopkins names a replacement and announces a new structure. That structure is expected to involve an expanded film effort for both MGM, including more wide theatrical releases, and Amazon.
Zaslav’s strategy as he shapes the company is to create three verticals, each with its own leadership: Warner Bros.-New Line (under De Luca and Abdy), DC and Animation. DC Films president Walter Hamada will report to De Luca and Abdy until new leadership is identified, and the head of the animation vertical is yet to be named.
Zaslav’s intention is to model Warners after the system that former Disney CEO Bob Iger implemented at that studio, with the verticals reporting directly to him. Zaslav has talked to former Disney studio chairman Alan Horn about serving as an advisor. (In designing the verticals approach for overseeing Warner Bros. Discovery’s film executive structure, Zaslav consulted not only with Horn but with Iger.)
Sorting out DC remains a major challenge for Zaslav. Sources say he has asked Todd Phillips, the multihyphenate who created dark 2019 billion-dollar grosser Joker, to do more in the DC universe, potentially acting as an advisor though he will not serve in an executive capacity. A knowledgeable source says Phillips and Zaslav have discovered a rapport, though Phillips is not an expert on the broader DC universe. While at Disney-owned Marvel, chief creative officer Kevin Feige oversees film, television animation and publishing, there has been no single voice guiding DC. (DC chief Hamada oversees the film universe based on the company’s characters, including its HBO Max spinoffs.) DC’s properties are only loosely connected — and sometimes take place in entirely separate universes, such as the Oscar-winning Joker and Matt Reeves’ The Batman, released in March.
As a veteran of both Disney and Warners, Horn has refrained from working out a formal arrangement until Zaslav sets his executive team. Horn did not want to involve himself earlier due to his relationships with various multiple players or potential players in the mix. His return to Warners is something of a full-circle moment as he left Warners in 2011 amid corporate shuffling there. He then went on to a vastly successful run at Disney. In a similar vein, De Luca was fired as president of production of New Line in 2001, following a string of flops, including the Adam Sandler bomb Little Nicky, only to return more than 20 years later as head of the film studio.
Warners declined to comment, as did De Luca, Abdy and Emmerich.
Zaslav’s full note to staff on Wednesday is below:
This morning, Toby Emmerich informed his team of his decision to step down as chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group and launch his own production company. I have known Toby for years, he is a great leader and a friend to me and to many, and I am very happy for him, and even more thrilled that he has chosen to remain a part of our Warner Bros. Discovery family through this new production venture. We’re also grateful to him for agreeing to stay at the helm of Warner Bros. Pictures Group through a transition period this summer.
Over the last few months, Toby and I have been talking about the best structure for Warner Bros. Pictures Group and the idea of creating three distinct film segments around Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, and DC-Based Film Production. I have greatly appreciated his insight and partnership throughout this process and feel confident this is the right strategy for our company going forward.
It was during these same discussions that Toby first shared with me his desire to start his own production company. I told him he had my absolute support. He is incredibly talented with a well-deserved reputation throughout the industry as a bold, creative visionary. While at the helm of New Line Cinema and then the entire Warner Bros. Picture Group, he has been a driving force behind a diverse collection of highly successful movies and series, including The Notebook, Elf, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star Is Born and The Batman. I have no doubt he will deliver even more exceptional, one-of-a-kind stories in his new capacity, and I look forward to continuing our working relationship for many years to come.
We have a deep history of world-class production here at Warner Bros. Discovery, and our intent going forward is to tell more of the best stories and to share them with an even bigger audience around the world. Toby and his team will play an important and valued role in this endeavor, we’re so glad to have them join us, and we can’t wait to see what they will create in the months and years ahead.
Aaron Couch contributed to this report.
June 1, 1:20 pm PST Updated with David Zaslav’s memo to staff.
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