EXCLUSIVE: Kary Antholis, President, HBO Miniseries and Cinemax Programming, will be leaving the company after more than 25 years. Following Antholis’ exit, HBO Films president Len Amato will expand his current role to also assume Antholis’ responsibilities in his new post as President, HBO Films, Miniseries and Cinemax Programming.
“Len has had a distinguished career leading HBO Films to award-winning results,” said HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys. “He is uniquely qualified to add HBO Miniseries and Cinemax to his responsibilities; and we are thrilled that he will now be overseeing these three areas.”
The departure of Antholis comes amidst sweeping changes at WarnerMedia following AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, which have included the recent arrival of Bob Greenblatt as chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct to Consumer, overseeing HBO, and the departure of HBO CEO Richard Plepler.
Antholis, who will stay through June, was among a number of veteran HBO employees who recently were offered voluntary early retirement packages. He opted to take it and focus on a new digital venture for crime journalism that he had been mulling for awhile. He has teamed on the project with Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall and his partner Joe Ragazzo.
Antholis, who is a lawyer by trade, has had a lifelong fascination in journalism, particularly in the areas of crime and politics; he even took a summer job in the New York Times Paris bureau during his college year abroad in France. His first pitches to HBO were docuseries in the crime genre, including Autopsy, which got made.
Antholis recently taught classes at USC on crime dramas and crime documentaries, which helped him flesh out his idea for a crime-focused digital venture, and he decided to put the plan in motion when the early retirement package offer was presented to him. Over the years, Antholis had developed a relationship with Marshall and is looking to emulate Talking Points Memo’s approach to political news storytelling on the crime side.
The new initiative will initially focus on print crime reporting and will start as a blog on TPM after Antholis leaves HBO. By late 2019-early 2020, Antholis hopes to raise enough money to spin off the blog into its own site and eventually expand into podcasts. The venture will initially be ad-supported with the goal to move toward subscription-based content. The podcasts will feature interviews with top names in crime documentary-making and crime narrative storytelling.
“I am deeply grateful to HBO for over a quarter century of opportunities to work with many of the world’s great storytellers,” Antholis said. “I am particularly pleased that HBO‘s generosity – in addition to encouraging me to develop and produce TV projects – will allow me to pursue my long-held vision of creating a digital media enterprise focused on crime journalism and storytelling.”
While he is moving on, Antholis will keep ties with HBO. He may stay on as a consultant, particularly on projects related to crime and criminal justice. He also will remain involved in a handful of scripted projects.
Antholis first joined HBO in 1992 as director, Documentary Programming, where he oversaw the development of such award-winning documentaries as Educating Peter, The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter and Gang War: Bangin’ in Little Rock. He left HBO in 1994 to produce and direct the documentary One Survivor Remembers, which debuted on HBO, won an Oscar and a Primetime Emmy and was added by the Librarian of Congress to the National Film Registry.
Antholis rejoined HBO in April 1997. He relocated to Los Angeles from the network’s New York City office in 1999 and later was named an SVP of HBO Films & Miniseries. Antholis became president of HBO Miniseries in 2008.
Some of the acclaimed miniseries he has shepherded during his tenure at the premium network include The Night Of, Mildred Pierce, Olive Kitteridge, The Pacific, John Adams, Generation Kill, Angels in America, The Corner, The Gathering Storm, From the Earth to the Moon, Show Me a Hero, The Casual Vacancy as well as the upcoming Chernobyl and Catherine the Great.
Over the past decade, Antholis also oversaw sister network Cinemax’s foray into original programming with such primetime series as Strike Back, Banshee, The Knick and Outcast. He most recently shepherded Cinemax’s rebrand as a destination for fun, mostly action-packed fare with shows like the rebooted Strike Back and the upcoming Warrior.
For both miniseries and Cinemax originals, Antholis had developed co-production models to work alongside HBO’s own development and production.
“Kary has been a key creative force at HBO and Cinemax over the past three decades,” Bloys said. “We are extremely appreciative of all that he has accomplished and contributed to the company, and we look forward to working with him as a producer and innovative voice in his new endeavors.”
With Amato overseeing both films and miniseries, HBO reverts to the setup under HBO Films president Colin Callender (Amato also will be adding Cinemax original programming which did not exist back then). The two areas were split between Amato and Antholis following Callender’s 2008 exit.
With movies and miniseries reunited, there may be some blending of the two departments, with HBO Films SVP Development and Production Tara Grace likely taking on additional responsibilities.
As president of HBO Films, Amato has been responsible for overseeing the development and production of original movies. With Amato at the helm, HBO Films won the Outstanding Made For Television Movie Emmy in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (Grey Gardens, Temple Grandin, Game Change, Behind the Candelabra, The Normal Heart and Bessie, respectively), for a total of 20 Best Movie Emmys since 1993. Behind the Candelabra, with 11 wins and 15 nominations, was the most-honored program at the 2013 Emmys.
“Leading HBO Films is one of the great joys of my life and I’m honored to expand my responsibilities to include HBO Miniseries and Cinemax,” Amato said. “It’s a privilege to continue working with my colleagues and all the incredible artists who make HBO a very special destination for great talent and whose vision creates such relevant and impactful storytelling.”
Amato’s promotion comes as the lines between movies, miniseries and limited series are blurring more than ever, with all longform categories able to attract top talent both in front and behind the camera and the story dictating how long a project should go.
While new HBO owners at AT&T have been vocal about their desire to ramp up series production in order to successfully compete in the streaming wars, longform is expected to continue to be an important piece of the programming mix at HBO, both as a viable viewing choice for subscribers and a potent awards contender.
There are also no changes expected in the current programming direction at Cinemax, set by Bloys and Antholis, with Amato looking to build on the momentum from the initial rollout of the rebranded network.
HBO has taken varied approach to original movies, with acquisitions complementing homegrown films, most recently, My Dinner with Hervé, starring Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage with the Deadwood movie, a continuation of the cult HBO series, coming up next. Recent acquisitions include A24’s Share and Native Son, both picked up at Sundance, as well as the British Brexit.
Before becoming president, Amato served as HBO program executive and executive producer on 2008’s multiple Emmy-winning film Recount. The film began Amato’s association with director Jay Roach and writer Danny Strong who would later repeat their creative collaboration on Game Change.
Amato joined HBO in March 2007 as SVP, HBO Films, continuing his long relationship with the network which began in 1997 in New York when he produced Charles Dutton’s directorial debut First Time Felon, starring Omar Epps and Delroy Lindo; and executive produced Iron Jawed Angels, starring Oscar winners Hilary Swank and Anjelica Huston in 2004. Amato appeared on the fourth season of the HBO series Project Greenlight.
Prior to joining HBO, Amato was president, Spring Creek Productions. His producer/executive producer credits include: Analyze This and Analyze That, Possession, Deliver Us From Eva, Rumor Has It, as well as the Oscar-nominated Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and The Astronaut Farmer, with Billy Bob Thornton.
Earlier, Amato was Story Editor for Robert De Niro’s then-newly formed Tribeca Productions in New York where he worked on such films as Michael Apted’s Thunderheart and Irwin Winkler’s Night in the City. Amato began his film career in New York as a story analyst for various independent producers and studios. Prior to his career in the film industry, Amato was a musician and actor.