So, what’s been the big change at Warner Bros. studios since AT&T took over?
“We used to have three bars, but now we have five bars,” joked Warner Bros. Studio chairman Toby Emmerich about the studio’s new corporate parent at today’s Produced By Conference.
But, in all seriousness, Emmerich, who sat down in a morning discussion with Warner Bros. president and chief content officer-TV Peter Roth and Deadline’s Pete Hammond ,spoke about how the studio is stoked to embrace even further the direct-to-consumer streaming era.
“That’s the big change that’s coming,” said Emmerich about the studio’s forthcoming streaming service. “Peter will be making movies for the platform and we’ll be making movies.”
“This is the evolution of television. It all begins with the consumer. If we don’t adhere to what the consumer wants, we’ll be obsolete,” said Roth, talking about how Netflix has changed the game.
“It was vitally important when AT&T bought us that they leverage that platform,” said Roth, who explained that one of the fears about the future is how studios will rely upon their in-house content even more and become more vertically integrated.
Continued Emmerich, “Motion Pictures companies will look like direct-to-consumer companies. For major film companies, you’ll see movies on our platforms sooner than they hit SVOD/PVOD five or ten years ago.”
“People will always go to the theater” said Emmerich, “and they’ll be more of an emphasis on tent pole movies than ever before. But the kinds of movies that will justify the experience may become more limited.”
That said, the Disney/Fox merger “will allow us to take risks on films they normally wouldn’t consider,” said Emmerich. “Fox/Disney – I’m jealous because they will be the No. 1 (producer) for the foreseeable future.”
In regards to reviving DC on the film side in the wake of Batman vs. Superman and Justice League, Emmerich said that the trick is putting the IP in the hands of filmmakers’ visions, which is the overall creed of Warner Bros. They’re a filmmaker-driven studio.
“Great directors are the lifeblood of a studio,” said Emmerich. “But they need great producers” he added, to great cheers.
He hinted that Warner Bros. would return with its DC feature slate at San Diego Comic-Con 2020 (they’re sitting out and sending New Line’s It: Chapter 2 instead). Essentially, with three DC pics on the horizon — Todd Phillips’ R-rated Joker during the first weekend of October, Birds of Prey on Feb. 7, and Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, they’re not ready to pop materials just yet on those movies.
As far as franchise fatigue with Legendary’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters tanking, Emmerich said that next year’s monster movie Godzilla vs. Kong “will deliver for fans in the way they were looking for” in the latest Godzilla. “It might come out later in the year, so we can deliver an A+ movie” said Emmerich.
At the top of the session, Roth acknowledged the state of the studio post-CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s departure after his alleged misconduct scandal with actress Charlotte Kirk.
“The loss of our CEO was a painful experience and we had to adjust to it,” said Roth.
“I think Toby is one of the best executives. Kim Williams is thoughtful and smart and a powerful woman, completes the three of us. We each oversee a particular discipline in the company. This is an interim set, not the permanent office of CEO. There will be a new CEO. It was critical to calm the waters with a very large agenda ahead of us.”
Asked about the ATA and WGA war, Emmerich said he believed the two sides differences “sounds hopeful,” while Roth acknowledged that “this is a very personal fight between two entities which we really don’t control,” before adding, “How’s that for a duck?”
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