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Warner Bros. motion picture and television chiefs Toby Emmerich and Peter Roth were in conversation at the Produced By conference on Saturday, leading a wide-ranging talk that included AT&T, Disney/Fox and ousted CEO Kevin Tsujihara.
“For this interim time, it was critical to calm the waters,” said Roth, who, with Emmerich, has been acting as an interim CEO while WarnerMedia continues its search for a new chief after Tsujihara stepped down earlier this year.
In a Hollywood Reporter article in March, text messages between Tsujihara and Charlotte Kirk revealed that Tsujihara, who served as CEO of the Burbank-based studio for six years, said that he would push for auditions for the actress amid an apparent sexual relationship that he was having with her.
Later in the conversation, Roth credited Tsujihara for recognizing the potential that DC Entertainment intellectual property had on television. Warner Bros., with the help of producer Greg Berlanti, has since built a universe of shows that include Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl.
Roth and Emmerich also discussed their new owners AT&T, noting that they are readying for their first WarnerMedia corporate off-site in New York. A priority for the company and CEO John Stankey is their impending streaming platform.
Said Roth, “With the advent of Netflix, streaming has absolutely invaded all for us.”
He added: “If there is one thing I fear about the future, it’s increased insularity and increased vertical integration. As a consumer, I object to that. From my point of view, we are trying to be a key content provider while still retaining our freedom.”
For his part, Emmerich talked about the narrowing of the theatrical experience, saying, “A movie that you have to see opening weekend because it is a part of a conversation becomes all the more important. We all believe people will always go to theaters, but the kind of movies that justify that experience will become more limited.”
The studio had a record 2018, which included A Star Is Born, Crazy Rich Asians and Aquaman, which became the first DC superhero film to cross $1?billion globally since The Dark Knight Rises in 2012.
Summer 2019 has thus far proved less lucrative for the studio with the recent lackluster box office of the Warners and Legendary tentpole Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which bowed to $49 million domestically. Emmerich said that the studio will likely be moving the next installment in its monster movie franchise, Godzilla vs. Kong, off of its current March 2020 release date, adding, “It might come out later in the year, so we can deliver an A+ movie.”
What about Disney’s acquisition of Fox?
“I’m jealous because they are going to be No. 1 for the foreseeable future,” said Emmerich, “but it creates opportunities for Warner Bros. and Universal because, even with Fox, my impression is that Disney/Fox has a specific focus” — that focus being on franchise and family fare.
To finish the conversation, the moderator asked how the search for the studio’s new CEO was going. “Well, it is funny you should ask that,” joked Emmerich as he gestured offstage, seemingly readying for an introduction while the audience laughed, as no one was there.
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