UPDATED: Longtime Warner Bros EVP International, Richard Fox, is heading to China to lead the studio’s Middle Kingdom expansion and oversee its interests in joint venture Flagship Entertainment Group. That’s the entity formed with China Media Capital in September to develop and produce a slate of Chinese-language films, including global tentpoles, for worldwide distribution. The venture’s first release is expected in 2016. This is a move that demonstrates WB’s commitment to the world’s fastest-growing box office market as Hollywood looks to share in the proceeds by more closely collaborating with the PROC.
Fox, a respected international exec who has been in his current position since 1992, will relocate in January. Warner Bros Chairman and CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, said today, “China represents incredible opportunities for Warner Bros. across a variety of businesses. With his unique background and unmatched experience, Richard will work with Chinese talent and the studio’s partners to provide premium entertainment content for this fast-growing, dynamic market. Richard’s international expertise and acumen are widely recognized and will help us move forward in China in a meaningful way.”
Fox will work with divisional leaders in the U.S., as well as current Warner Bros execs in China, to coordinate business activities and explore new opportunities and partnerships. He will also coordinate WB’s 49% interest in Flagship Entertainment. As part of his Flagship responsibilities, Fox will work with Warner execs to distribute its titles outside of China.
Chinese box office at the end of November posted a record of $6.25B, more than 48% growth year-on-year. Locally-produced movies accounted for more than 59% of that take, so getting in on that business is key — especially as a disturbing trend has seen Hollywood movies drum up less of a fervor over the past few months. While the box office soars at home, Chinese movies have traditionally had difficulty traveling and a tie-up like Flagship allows for the exchange of technical expertise and the development of young Chinese talent.
Warner, which has had great success with local-language productions under Fox’s stewardship in markets like Germany and Japan, is already active in a number of business ventures in China. It is a partner in Tencent’s SVOD service Hollywood VIP, licenses TV shows like The Big Bang Theory, and has a hand in various consumer products initiatives and videogames. WB films to have released successfully in the PROC this year include The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and San Andreas.
Fox joined WB in 1975 and as a management trainee working in Australia and Japan. He has lived in various countries overseas and held a number of posts in the international theatrical business while ascending the ranks to his current position.
“Whether it’s in Burbank or Beijing,” he says, “Warner Bros has a longstanding reputation as being an excellent business and creative partner. I’m honored that I will be furthering this tradition and extending the Studio’s legacy through our work in China as well as on the Flagship titles.”
In other moves, Warner Bros Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara announced that Reg Harpur, EVP, Operations and Planning, will be assuming a greater role and responsibilities in the Studio’s international operations, including oversight of the company’s Amsterdam regional distribution hub and the company’s Country Managers, the cross-divisional executives who head up WB’s businesses in key international territories. In addition, Monique Esclavissat, EVP, Europe and Latin America Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures International, and Marc Gareton, EVP, International – Asia Pacific, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, have assumed responsibility for the studio’s local language film production activities.
Warner Bros. Pictures International also promoted two in-territory executives: Erlina Suharjono moves up to EVP/Managing Director, China and Asia, and Weelin Loh now serves as SVP, Marketing, China and Asia.