What Warner Bros.’ Shake-Up Means for DC Films: Fewer Cooks, Finally

DC productions are about to get a lot more streamlined, the studio says

Last Updated: January 11, 2018 @ 10:56 AM

Warner Bros.’ disappointing “Justice League” has been called a “Frankenstein” — a mess of a movie patched together by too many parties, including two directors. But the studio hopes a major shakeup will make for a more streamlined process, and more successful superhero films.

After surviving two awkward years of greenlighting-by-committee, newly-minted Warner Bros. Pictures Chairman Toby Emmerich will now answer to no one but Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

“Toby has green light, I have red light,” Tsujihara told TheWrap.

The company announced Tuesday that 23-year veteran marketing chief Sue Kroll would step down to a producer gig. She was previously part of a committee to greenlight new film productions, a power that now solely belongs to Emmerich.

Fewer cooks in the kitchen will mean not just better decisions on what films to make, but on how to market them, one WB insider told TheWrap.

One marketing decision that seems misguided in retrospect? Excluding Henry Cavill’s Superman from “Justice League” advertising, in order to preserve the so-called surprise that the Man of Steel didn’t really die in “Batman v Superman.”

“The bizarre decision not to have Superman included in the marketing stopped ‘Justice League’ from potentially hitting $100 million opening weekend,” the insider said.

Of course, maybe Warner Bros. just wanted to conceal an inconvenient mustache.

Kroll had her successes, including the mega-hit “Wonder Woman.”

“There’s intense scrutiny on everything we do, particularly in this world, in the DC superhero universe,” she said in a June interview to promote “Wonder Woman.”

But another insider, one familiar with Kroll’s thinking, said there may have been a simple reason for her struggles making “Justice League” fly: “She hated superhero movies.”

A Warner Bros. rep had no comment on the matter. When asked for comment, Kroll told TheWrap that it’s “simply not true” that she hates superhero movies.

“I love superhero movies. I’ve always considered it an honor to market films that fans feel so passionately about. And I think our track record stands for itself,” Kroll said. “As for the ‘Justice League’ campaign, I stand behind everything we did. It was a strategic and creative campaign, and I am immensely proud of the work done by all of us.”

In her new role as a producer, Kroll will help mount “Motherless Brooklyn” and Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut “A Star Is Born.”

Marketing and distribution duties will now fall to two executives who will report to Emmerich: Blair Rich, president of Worldwide Marketing, and Ron Sanders, president of Worldwide Distribution.

Warner Bros. is currently second place to Walt Disney, home of Marvel, now the gold-standard of comic book cinematic universes.

Tsujihara says he wants Emmerich to help DC Films find their own identity, rather than copying Marvel.

“Warner Bros needs to continue doing what it’s always done: producing the biggest, most diverse slate in the business. That’s what’s made us successful. We can’t do what Disney’s done. It’s worked really, really well for them, but it’s not who we are. We need to continue to create a balanced slate of all types of movies and all genres,” Tsujihara said.