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Jeff Robinov is not part of a realignment of Warner Bros.’ film group announced Monday.
The new Warners leadership team will be Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production, and Toby Emmerich, president and COO of New Line Cinema. Emmerich will add oversight of Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.
The move by Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara to up the trio of executives, which mirrors a recent realignment in the studio’s television group, signals that Robinov will not be replaced.
The studio also announced that domestic distribution head Dan Fellman has renewed his contract and will report directly to Tsujihara until he retires, when international distribution chief Veronika Kwan Vandenberg will assume his responsibilities.
Robinov’s departure follows that of Bruce Rosenblum, who resigned as head of Warners’ TV operations in May and last week joined Thomas Tull‘s Legendary Entertainment to head up its TV and digital initiatives.
The current executive upheaval at the studio dates back to 2010 when Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes set up a high-level competition to decide who would eventually succeed Barry Meyer as chairman of the studio. He set up an office of the president, comprised of Robinov, Rosenblum and Tsujihara, then president of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. When Bewkes finally announced in January that he’d chosen Tsujihara to succeed Meyer, speculation started immediately over whether Rosenblum and Robinov would remain at the studio.
Although regarded as a sometimes prickly executive, Robinov had put together an impressive résumé during his years heading production at Warners. Having joined the studio in 1997 as senior vp production after three years as an agent at ICM, he was promoted to president of the Warner Bros. Picture Group in 2007 and was charged with developing new tentpoles for the studio. With its lucrative Harry Potter franchise due to wind down in 2011 and the studio yet to make full use of its catalog of DC Comics superheroes, Warners was in need of big franchise titles that could carry it into the future.
Robinov moved quickly to shut down Warner Independent, the studio’s specialty division. Warner Independent had acquired U.S. rights to a little movie called Slumdog Millionaire, but, after first considering sending it straight to video, the studio sold a 50 percent interest in the film to Fox Searchlight, which took over U.S. distribution and captured a best picture Oscar.
By then, though, Robinov was on to bigger things. He went to bat for Todd Phillips’ The Hangover, which proved to be a surprise R-rated hit in 2009, grossing $467 million worldwide and spawning a 2011 sequel, which did even better, collecting $587 million. He developed a close working relationship with producer/director Christopher Nolan, whose Batman Begins grossed $374 million worldwide in 2005, setting the stage for 2008’s The Dark Knight, which leaped to $1.004 billion worldwide, and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, which hit $1.08 billion. In between the last two films, Nolan also turned out the intricately plotted mind game Inception, which won over moviegoers, who rewarded it with a $825.5 worldwide gross.
Following Alan Horn’s departure as president of Warner Bros. Entertainment in 2011, Robinov was finally granted greenlight power of his own when he was made part of the studio’s reigning troika, from which the new leadership would be chosen.
But as the time for Bewkes to make a final decision grew ever closer, Robinov, despite a huge hit last year with Dark Knight Rises, hit a rough patch at the box office.
Dark Shadows, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s winking spin-off of the campy ’60s TV serial, was released in May 2012, but the $150 million production attracted just $80 million in North America and only $246 million worldwide. And when a gunman attacked moviegoers at a screening of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., in 2012, it impacted the crime picture Gangster Squad, starring Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling. The movie had been scheduled for a September release, but it was pulled back to reshoot a climactic scene featuring a shoot-out in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. By the time the movie finally hit theaters in January, it had lost some of its heat and it grossed just $105 million worldwide.
Robinov also found himself at loggerheads with Tull, whose Legendary Entertainment has been Warners’ chief financing partner on many of its biggest movies. With Legendary’s deal with Warners expiring at the end of the year, Tull has wanted more of a say in the dating and marketing of the movies on which his company partners with the studio. And with Tull saying he will decide on the future of the partnership within the next 60 days, the relationship faces a huge test when Warners releases Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim on July 12, since Legendary has footed three-quarters of the movie’s $200 million budget.
Still, Robinov has had plenty to boast of over the past year. Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, with the help of a shrewd campaign overseen by Kroll, grossed $167 million worldwide, a fortune for a movie that cost just $7 million to make. Robinov’s long-standing support of Ben Affleck’s directorial ambitions also paid off when Argo grossed $232 million around the world and also won the best picture Oscar.
As for Robinov’s original assignment – get those big tentpoles up and running – he also was able to breathe a big sigh of relief now that Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel opened, taking in $200 million worldwide over the course of its first weekend. Snyder had been seen as something of a controversial choice for the assignment. While he gave Warners a solid hit in 2006 with 300, his subsequent features for the studio, 2009’s Watchmen and 2011’s Sucker Punch, were disappointments. Snyder, however, was supported by both Robinov and Nolan, who agreed to step in to produce the film.
By then, though, Bewkes had put Tsujihara in charge, and Robinov’s own days at Warners were numbered.
The Warner Bros. press release is below:
Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced a new leadership team to run Warner Bros. Pictures Group, capitalizing on the proven strengths of a number of longtime Studio executives. Sue Kroll will now serve as President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures; Greg Silverman will now serve as President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, Warner Bros. Pictures; and Toby Emmerich will continue as President and COO, New Line Cinema, while adding responsibility for Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures. The announcement was made today by Kevin Tsujihara, CEO, Warner Bros., to whom all three executives will report.
Working closely with the management team, Dan Fellman, whose contract has been extended, will continue in his role as President, Domestic Distribution, reporting directly to Tsujihara. Veronika Kwan Vandenberg will continue as President, International Distribution, and ultimately assume responsibility for worldwide distribution, taking on the domestic distribution function upon the planned retirement of Fellman. Kwan Vandenberg will report to Kroll who, in addition to her marketing and distribution responsibilities, will continue to be involved in all aspects of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and New Line Cinema’s releases.
“Warner Bros. is the world’s preeminent motion picture studio with one of the most talented executive benches in the industry,” said Tsujihara. “Collectively, this team has more than 100 years at the company and broad experience across the film business, which will ensure that Warner Bros. Pictures continues as a respected leader in production, marketing and global distribution. I have every confidence that we will continue to deliver the industry’s most compelling, popular and successful movies.”
“This marks an exciting new chapter in the storied history of Warner Bros. Pictures,” said Barry Meyer, Chairman, Warner Bros. “We are in the midst of another terrific year, and our film division will continue to thrive well into the future under this realigned organization.”
Kroll was named President, Worldwide Marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures in January 2008 and has led enormously successful campaigns for a broad range of motion pictures, including most recently “Man of Steel,” “The Great Gatsby” and last year’s Academy Award Best Picture winner, “Argo.” Other prominent campaigns include the billion-dollar blockbusters “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” as well as “Inception” and the final installments of the Harry Potter series.
Silverman has been President, Production, Warner Bros. Pictures since April 2011 and played a key role in recent box-office successes, including “The Great Gatsby,” directed by Baz Luhrmann, “Argo” from director Ben Affleck and “The Dark Knight Rises,” directed by Christopher Nolan. As a creative executive, Silverman also shepherded the commercially successful and critically acclaimed “300,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Hangover” and the global phenomenon “Inception,” among other films.
As President and COO of New Line Cinema since March 2008, and President of Production for seven years prior to that, Emmerich has overseen such diverse features as the Academy Award-winning blockbuster “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and 2005’s highest-grossing comedy, “Wedding Crashers,” as well as “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Horrible Bosses,” the “Journey” franchise and the “Final Destination” films.