Executive Firings: What's Behind Hollywood's Season of the Witch Hunt (Analysis)

 Illustration by: Jacob Thomas

THR's studio-by-studio breakdown reveals surprising new details of the movie business' biggest executive upheaval in years -- Sony's hunt for money, will Jeff Robinov finally land at Fox? -- and the politics of the shake-ups.


When Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes crowned the studio's home entertainment chief Tsujihara as the new CEO at the start of the year, he risked destabilizing one of the most consistent regimes in Hollywood. And sure enough, by June, both Rosenblum and Robinov were out. Rosenblum soon landed at Legendary, but negotiating Robinov's exit turned into a prolonged affair that has only just been completed. Tellingly, Robinov isn't taking any Warners development projects with him.

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Instead of importing a new film chief, Tsujihara entrusted the studio to a team comprised of Sue Kroll, with the new title of president, worldwide marketing and international distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures; Greg Silverman, who'd served as production president under Robinov since 2011; and New Line president and COO Toby Emmerich. The new structure initially puzzled onlookers wondering who exactly would be in charge. But according to dealmakers, save for Robinov's absence, not much has changed. Tsujihara took the lead in convincing J.K. Rowling to sign a new film deal with the promise that she can write the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but that kind of hands-on involvement has been more the exception than the rule on his part. Agents continue to go to Silverman for big Warners-type pitches and Emmerich for projects more suited for New Line. Except for the ongoing Hobbit trilogy -- which it produces with MGM -- New Line is swearing off big-ticket items like Bryan Singer's nearly $200 million Jack the Giant Slayer, which grossed just $198 million worldwide this year. Instead, New Line will stick with mid-range comedies like current smash We're the Millers and horror pics like The Conjuring. Kroll, meanwhile, has been busy with openings like Prisoners, which Warners distributed for partner Alcon Entertainment, and Gravity, which launches worldwide Oct. 3.

There also was a lot of speculation that the talent associated with Robinov would defect with him. But Warners seems to have cauterized any potential bleeding with its surprise announcement that Ben Affleck will don Batman's cowl for Zack Snyder's 2015 Man of Steel sequel. Sources say overtures have been made to filmmakers Robinov had alienated like Danny Boyle and David Fincher. The new team has greenlighted a number of films -- Guy Ritchie's Man from U.N.C.L.E., Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys -- though they still represent projects that had been in development under Robinov rather than a new direction. Insiders say that if rifts between the studio's leaders develop, it likely won't be until tough greenlight decisions need to be made.

With the departure of Legendary to Universal, Warners lost a valuable financing source. While it has an ongoing $1 billion-plus partner in Village Roadshow, it still needed to come up with additional financing. Tsujihara met that challenge Sept. 30 by closing a massive financing arrangement with RatPac-Dune, a partnership between Dune's Steven Mnuchin, filmmaker Brett Ratner and Australian billionaire James Packer. Valued at $450 million, it will cover as many as 75 films during the next three-to-four years, beginning with Gravity.

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