Warner Bros. CEO Vows to "Protect the Culture" of Film Studio After AT&T Acquisition

Kevin Tsujihara - Getty - H 2016
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"You need the special sauce to create the great movies," Kevin Tsujihara said at an executive conference.

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara assured investors on Tuesday that the film and TV studio will enjoy the autonomy it needs after AT&T closes its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

Tsujihara said he'll "protect the culture" of the film studio, and that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has acknowledged that Warner Bros. should be staffed by entertainment executives, as it is now, rather than by telecommunication experts.

"You need the special sauce to create the great movies," Tsujihara said at the Credit Suisse Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

The studio boss on several occasions compared Warner Bros. to Disney, saying that no other studios enjoy as much success with big franchises — in particular Marvel for Disney and DC for Warner Bros. — both of which are able to attract moviegoers even as the quality and breadth of TV shows expand.

Tsujihara said the top 10 films this year will capture about 30 percent of the box-office total, and added: "I don't see that abating anytime soon."

The Warner Bros. franchises — mostly related to DC, Lego and J.K. Rowling — represent "hundreds of millions of dollars in opportunity" for consumer products, a segment Tsujihara says he is focused on, including pushing deeper into mobile games and theme park attractions.

On the TV front, the exec boasted that Westworld, the HBO show distributed and co-produced by Warner Bros., boasts first-year viewing on all platforms that is greater than Game of Thrones, and he vowed to create more shows for Time Warner-owned networks.

Tsujihara also spoke of narrowing theatrical windows, calling it "imperative" to allow consumers access to movies earlier than theater owners may want. "We're working with them to try to create a new window," he said. "We're going to do it."

The CEO predicted an $11 billion domestic box office this year and $7 billion for China, noting how the fast-growing region represents a major opportunity for Flagship Entertainment Group, its joint venture with China Media Capital and Hong Kong broadcaster TVB.

Tsujihara said more than half of the $7 billion China box office will come from local-language films, which is the focus of Flagship, and he said the goal is to export those films to other parts of the world.