Warner Bros. CEO Promises More DC Comics Content, Possible Streaming Service

Kevin Tsujihara sees big opportunities in franchises, consumer products and China

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 27: CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara speaks onstage during Warner Bros. Pictures' “The Big Picture”, an Exclusive Presentation Highlighting the Summer of 2014 and Beyond during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 27, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for CinemaCon)
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Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara said the studio is doubling down on its major franchises in a Tuesday Q&A session at an investor conference, undoubtedly good news for fans of DC Comics, Harry Potter and the Lego movies. And some of that content may be delivered direct to consumer.

In remarks at the Credit Suisse Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Tsujihara said given the challenges of today’s film market, marquee intellectual property is more critical than ever.

“What is becoming more and more important is really these big franchises,” Tsujihara said.

The studio chief pointed out that three years ago, the top 10 films made up about 25 percent of the box office. This year, the top 10 will comprise about 30 percent, which makes nailing tentpoles that much more important. Tsujihara also said that the proliferation of prestige TV has favored big spectacle movies.

“If you look at what’s happening with the quality of the television product, the movies that are breaking through are the big franchises,” he said, adding that only Disney has a comparable selection of big franchises as Warner Bros.

Tsujihara also underscored Warner Bros.’ stepped-up direct-to-consumer efforts, mentioning its recent acquisition of gaming-focused Machinima. He said the studio’s been working on that line of business, hinting at a potential dedicated DC Comics product to capitalize on its “rabid” fan base.

“We’ve been working on that quite feverishly over the last 12 months,” he said of Warner Bros.’ direct-to-consumer pipeline.

Like many other studio chiefs — who have been watching, and in some cases, reaping the benefits of Chinese money flowing into Hollywood — Tsujihara said the potential opportunities to tap into the fast-growing movie market of the world’s most populous country is massive.

“The size of that opportunity for a movie studio is bigger than anything we’ve seen internationally in a long time,” Tsujihara said.

Tsujihara downplayed the impact of the proposed AT&T acquisition of studio owner Time Warner, saying that his division would continue to focus on producing hits for Time Warner’s cable channels, such as TNT and HBO.

“The biggest way for Warner Bros. to move the needle was if we created a hit show for Turner or HBO,” he said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity we potentially have with [HBO series] ‘Westworld.’”

Tsujihara pointed out that early viewing for “Westworld” is ahead of the first season of “Game of Thrones,” which has grown into HBO’s biggest current hit.

He also addressed potential changes to viewing windows, which he said have been the subject of productive talks with distributors “for the first time in a long time.”

“We’re working with them to create a new window,” he said. “We have to offer consumers more choices earlier.”

And regardless of when they get to see it, Warner Bros. plans to produce plenty of new content from familiar — and reliable — intellectual property.

“Do we have an opportunity to rejuvenate ‘Looney Tunes?’” he asked.