Warner Brothers DiscoveryThe film studio’s management structure is taking shape, according to sources familiar with the matter The Hollywood Reporterwhere the executive team of Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdi have reached an agreement to operate Warners and New Line once Amazon is freed from their MGM contracts — as soon as next month.
Toby Emmerich, who has directed Warners and New Line since 2017, is leaving the role but has secured a production deal with Warner Bros. Discovery. David Zaslav, head of discovery at Warner Bros., wrote in a note to employees on Wednesday.
After De Luca and Abdy leave MGM, their direct reports will report to Julie Rappaport, under the supervision of Jen Salke, on a temporary basis until Mike Hopkins appoints a replacement and announces a new structure. This structure is expected to include an expanded film effort for both MGM, including more large-scale theatrical releases, and Amazon.
Zaslav’s strategy in forming the company is to create three segments, each with its own leadership: Warner Bros.-New Line (led by De Luca and Abdy), DC and Animation. DC Films president Walter Hamadeh will report to De Luca and Abdy until new leadership is identified, and the head of the animation division has yet to be named.
Zaslav intends to model the Warners model after the system that former Disney CEO Bob Iger implemented in that studio, with vertical reporting directly to him. Zaslav spoke to former Disney studio chief Alan Horn about working as a consultant. (When designing the vertical approach to overseeing the executive structure for Warner Bros. Discovery, Zaslav consulted not only with Horn but with Iger.)
Sorting out the capital is still a big challenge for Zaslav. Sources say he asked Todd Phillips, the multi-connector who created a profitable 2019 billion dollar joker, to do more in the DC universe, would likely serve as a consultant even though he wouldn’t serve in an executive capacity. An informed source says that Phillips and Zaslav discovered an affair, although Phillips is not an expert in the wider DC world. While at Disney-owned Marvel, creative director Kevin Feige oversees films, television animation, and publishing, not a single voice has been directing DC. (DC chief Hamada oversees the world of films based on the company’s characters, including the HBO Max spin-offs.) DC properties are just unconnected — and sometimes they occur in completely separate universes, like an Academy Award winner joker Matt Reeves Batmanreleased in March.
As a veteran of both Disney and Warners, Horn refrained from making a formal arrangement until Zaslav appoints his executive team. Horn did not want to involve himself earlier due to his relationships with many players or potential players in the mix. His return to Warners is a complete moment as he left Warner in 2011 amidst the shuffling of companies there. He then went on to have a hugely successful career at Disney. In a similar vein, De Luca was fired as New Line’s production head in 2001, after a series of failures, including Adam Sandler’s bombshell little nikkito return after more than 20 years as head of the film studio.
Warner declined to comment, as did De Luca, Abdi and Emmerich.
Zaslav’s full memo to staff on Wednesday is below:
This morning, Toby Emmerich informed his team of his decision to step down as Warner Bros. Group Chairman. Pictures Group and launch his own production company. I’ve known Toby for years, he’s a great leader and friend to me and so many, I’m so happy for him, and even more so thrilled that he’s chosen to remain part of the Warner Bros Discovery family through this new production project. We are also grateful to him for agreeing to remain at the helm of the Warner Bros. group. Pictures during a transition period this summer.
Over the past few months, Toby and I have been talking about the best structure for Warner Bros. photo collection. And the idea of creating three distinct movie clips around Warner Bros. Pictures / New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Feature Animation and DC-based movie production. I greatly appreciated his vision and partnership throughout this process and feel confident that this is the right strategy for our company going forward.
During these same discussions, 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 and has a reputation throughout the industry as a bold and creative visionary. While he was president of New Line Cinema and then Warner Bros. The entire Picture Group, he was a driving force behind a variety of highly successful films and series, including The Notebook, Elf, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star Is Born, and Batman. I have no doubts that he will provide even more extraordinary and unique 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 goal going forward is to tell and share more of the best stories with a larger audience around the world. Toby and his team will play an important and valuable role in this endeavour, and we are thrilled that they have joined us, and we can’t wait to see what they create in the coming months and years.
Aaron Koch contributed to this report.
June 1, 1:20 p.m. PST Updated with David Zaslav’s staff note.