Big changes over at Warner Bros this morning with several promotions, appointments and transitions. Toby Emmerich is being promoted to Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, with full oversight now of Worldwide Theatrical Production, Marketing and Distribution. Previously, the New Line boss carried the title of President and Chief Content Officer.
Sue Kroll, who joined Warner Bros in 1994 and has held the post of President of Worldwide Marketing since 2008, is transitioning to a producer role on the lot with credits on the upcoming A Star Is Born and Motherless Brooklyn. Her most recent executive title at the studio was President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution.
Kroll announced her own transition this morning and will effectively become a producer on the lot starting April 1 with a three-year exclusive deal. In addition to A Star Is Born and Motherless Brooklyn, her production label will soon announce additional projects in development. Her production company will be housed on the Burbank lot in the same bungalow once occupied by Jack Warner.
It’s a phenomenal change for Kroll, who has been integral to Warner Bros’ blockbuster success (read its banner $5.1 billion worldwide-grossing 2017), but also in its Oscar track record, overseeing the campaigns for such winners as Argo, Gravity, The Blind Side and Mad Max: Fury Road. Throughout the years she has developed close working relationships with talent like Bradley Cooper, Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck among others, stars who continually look to her for guidance. On top of this, she has knack for knowing what type of four-quad source material actually works in this rapidly changing, Millennial-moviegoing environment.
“Sue holds all the cards to be a successful producer — she’s smart, strategic, creative and has many meaningful relationships with great filmmakers,” said Emmerich. “I have deep respect for her taste, talent and passion for film, and I look forward to our continued friendship and collaboration in her new role as a producer on the lot.”
As part of this transition, Kroll will work with Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros’ Chairman and CEO, as a special adviser on the restructuring and continue to oversee the studio’s awards campaigns for Wonder Woman and Dunkirk as well as Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One which opens over Easter weekend.
As part of today’s revamp, Blair Rich has been appointed to serve as President, Worldwide Marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. In her new role, she gains oversight over the studio’s home entertainment division. She has been at Warner Bros since graduating from Georgetown University in 1997, when she started as a marketing trainee in International and rapidly rose through the ranks.
Meanwhile, the studio’s home entertainment czar Ron Sanders is being appointed to the position of President, Worldwide Distribution, Warner Bros Pictures Group. The Rich and Sanders promotions are effective immediately.
Tsujihara announced the changes today (read his memo below).
The news comes after a banner year for Warner Bros in which it earned a studio all-time record $5.1 billion globally, along with more than $2 billion stateside. Word is that discussions for these changes began to take place over the Christmas holidays. Warner Bros is bound to see a transitional year with the Time Warner-AT&T merger fighting to get through the Justice Department. In embracing the future, Warner Bros has also been one of the leading proponents of a new Premium VOD window that would create an extra source of revenue for its titles after playing in cinemas for three weeks – that initiative is still in negotiations with exhibition.
Recently, Emmerich announced that New Line production EVP Walter Hamada would take on the post of President of DC Films after Warner Bros executive and Justice League producer Jon Berg transitioned to a producing role at Roy Lee’s label on the lot.
“All of our businesses, including film and home entertainment, continue to rapidly evolve based on consumer tastes and technology, and we need to constantly adapt our operations to stay ahead of these changes, while preserving our creative excellence,” said Tsujihara 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. We’re fortunate that we have a deep bench of highly talented executives to help us navigate these changes.”
In her new role, Rich will lead the development and execution of all marketing campaigns for both Warner Bros’ global theatrical and home entertainment releases. She has oversight of the studio’s worldwide creative advertising, publicity, media, global digital, global promotions and worldwide research groups. She will also oversee the Home Entertainment marketing operation. Rich has been behind all of Warner Bros’ successful campaigns and spearheaded them including It, Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, and The LEGO Batman Movie.
“I’ve known and worked with Blair for years—she’s a fantastic marketer, highly respected and as creative as she is strategic,” said Emmerich. “The Pictures Group has an incredible marketing team, and with Blair at the helm, they’ll continue to set the industry standard for excellence.”
Sanders will assume oversight of the teams responsible for all matters relating to global film distribution and release functions. He will also retain his responsibilities as President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution, and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, president of international distribution and growth initiatives, will report into Sanders.
“Now more than ever, we need to be responsive to consumers’ changing moviegoing habits, and we’re looking to Ron to help us maximize the value of our film titles across their entire release, from theatrical to in-home and mobile,” added Tsujihara in his statement. “I’m excited for him to bring his expertise, experience and global relationships to our worldwide film distribution operations.”
Under Sanders’ leadership, WBHE held the top market share in Hollywood in home entertainment. Sanders oversees the global distribution of home entertainment products from Warner Bros Pictures Group, Warner Bros Television Group and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment. He is also responsible for the studio’s video game publishing business, and helped build WBHE into the industry’s largest digital distributor of films and TV shows through VOD and electronic sell-through.
“With our Pictures Group wrapping up a fantastic year, I’m excited that Toby will be taking on this expanded role at the Studio,” continued Tsujihara. “Over the last 12 months—and really throughout his career—he’s proven he has great instincts, the ability to balance the creative and commercial needs of the Studio, a deep well of experience and a leadership style that inspires those around him. I look forward to our continuing partnership.”
“I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity to help continue Warner Bros. Pictures’ legacy of creativity, innovation and excellence,” said Emmerich. “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. Between Warner Bros and New Line, we have an incredible wealth of talented executives who Kevin and I feel lucky to work with, and who we know will consistently deliver successful film slates year after year.”
Added Tsujihara: “I’d like to thank Sue for her incredible contributions to our film operations over the last twenty-plus years. With her at the helm of our film marketing and distribution efforts, the Studio has consistently been recognized as the industry’s gold standard, a tastemaker and the place where top filmmakers want to work. Sue is both creative and strategic, and has amazing relationships with filmmakers, so I have no doubt she’ll be a huge asset to our production operations. I’m really excited to be working with her in this new role.”
Kroll’s new role
What event movies hasn’t Kroll been behind at Warner Bros? She has overseen the Harry Potter franchise, The Hobbit, American Sniper, The Dark Knight trilogy, the list goes on. She has continually been a force in each of Warner Bros’ record-breaking years at the box office. During the past 18 years, the film division has crossed the $1B mark domestically and internationally each of them,
Said Kroll this morning, “I’ve had a wonderful career here at Warner Bros. For the past two decades, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most interesting and illustrious filmmakers of our age, and I’ve helped bring their incredible work to many millions of people around the world. Along the way, I have built and worked with a fantastic team of people here at the studio. Together, we’ve broken boundaries and redefined what’s possible, and I’m proud of all that we’ve achieved. Blair Rich, who’s a terrific executive, will lead the marketing team into the next phase of our industry’s evolution, and I know she’ll be great.
“I’m excited to be moving into this next chapter of my career. I’ve gained valuable insight from my years in marketing and distribution, as well as other aspects of filmmaking, and I’m eager to bring this unique perspective to my role as a producer. I love movies, and working even more closely with the filmmakers who bring great stories to life is both a great opportunity and an exciting new challenge for me. I’m thrilled to be doing this here at Warner Bros., and I look forward to working with Kevin, Toby, Blair, Ron and the entire studio team in my new capacity.”
Here’s Tsujihara’s full email to staff:
From: Executive Communique
Sent: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 11:32 AM
Subject: A Message from Kevin Tsujihara
I wanted to share some news with you about changes here at Warner Bros. that were announced today.
To make the company more competitive in the global marketplace, we’ll be combining our worldwide theatrical and home entertainment operations, with a focus on maintaining the creative excellence that has defined Warner Bros. since our founding.
As part of this restructuring, Toby Emmerich has been named Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, with responsibility for worldwide production, marketing and distribution. Blair Rich will head global theatrical and home entertainment marketing as President, Worldwide Marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; and Ron Sanders will assume responsibility for global film distribution as President, Worldwide Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures Group while retaining his role as President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Additionally, Sue Kroll, who most recently served as President, Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, will become a studio-based producer, effective April 1. During Sue’s tenure, our film group has consistently been recognized for its strategic and creative global marketing and distribution campaigns. She’s a legend in the marketing world and has been an incredible asset to the company throughout her 24-year career. I’m thrilled that she’ll continue to be part of the Warner Bros. family, and I look forward to working with her in her new role.
Attached are the press releases outlining these announcements.
Please join me in wishing Sue well, and congratulating Toby, Blair, Ron and Sue as they take on these new responsibilities.
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