Jon Berg, Warner Bros. co-president of production and Justice League producer, is exiting the executive suites on the Burbank, CA lot for another office, that of Lego Movie producer Roy Lee’s production partner. The news follows the lackluster performance of DC’s Justice League at the box office, which at $572M still hasn’t broke even yet (finance experts peg it in the high $600M-low $700M global range). Berg had creative direction over the DC properties along with DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. Berg also served as EP on Warner Bros. biggest grossing title of the year, and the year’s second best, Wonder Woman ($821.8M).
Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Toby Emmerich is expected to name a new executive to run point on DC films in the near future. There’s talk that DC films will be combined into the studio’s regular production/development department. Johns has been involved in a number of DC properties including TV (where he’s written many episodes), licensing, and publishing. At this point, it’s not certain whether his duties will evolve on the film side, or whether he’ll remain more of an advisor. Johns reports to DC President Diane Nelson.
Said Emmerich in a statement: ““This is something that Jon approached me about six months ago, and he expressed his goal was to ultimately be a producer at the studio. I first met Jon when, as a producer, he brought ‘Elf’ to New Line, which remains one of the best and most evergreen titles in the library. We’re thrilled that Jon is partnering with Roy and anticipate their company being a valuable source of movies for Warner Bros. and New Line.”
Justice League‘s tortured production history has been well documented. Zack Snyder, who fell short of critical and fanboy praise on Batman v. Superman despite its $873M-commercial success, was locked and loaded to continue helming Justice League. Berg moved to London to oversee production. Halfway through, Snyder had to depart due to a personal tragedy in his family, and Joss Whedon took over reshoots and post on Justice League. Many attribute the humor in Justice League to Whedon, but it’s impossible for a replacement director to change the entire DNA of a mostly-shot movie. There’s only so much Whedon could do. Tracking had Justice League in the $100M-$120M domestic range, and the pic fell greatly below that with a $93.8M start. Recently, the pic crossed $200M stateside, but it’s far off from having its ancillaries trigger any black for the studio. Post Christopher Nolan, it’s been a challenge for DC films (outside Wonder Woman) to stoke both fans and critics with material they haven’t seen before in a Marvel movie.
All of this aside, Justice League succeeded in teeing off The Flash and Aquaman, who will have their own films. Hope abounds in filmmaker James Wan with the DC franchise – he recently directed Aquaman for a Dec. 21, 2018, release. Also in the pipeline is Matt Reeves’ Batman, though it’s still unclear whether Ben Affleck will star. Patty Jenkins will begin prepping Wonder Woman 2 soon for a Nov. 1, 2019, release, while New Line has Shazaam in the works.
Variety first reported the news.