Warner Bros. creates DC Entertainment

Diane Nelson will head the unit as president

In an effort to supercharge DC Comics by integrating it more closely with the studio's various production units and distribution platforms, Warners Bros. is creating a new company called DC Entertainment.

Diane Nelson will head the division as its president; Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics since 2002, will become a writer, contributing editor and consultant for DC. The restructuring was announced Wednesday by Warners chairman and CEO Barry Meyer and president and COO Alan Horn.

The initiative has been driven by Jeff Robinov, whose contract as president of the Warner Bros. Picture Group was extended last week, and Nelson, who has been heading Warner Premiere, where she already has brought DC characters to the direct-to-video and VOD markets.

"This is something Diane and I have been working on together for more than a year now; it's been a process," Robinov said. "We really want to take DC's deep wealth of characters and titles and run them across all our platforms -- movies, television, video games, home video."

The first order of business will be a review of all the DC projects currently in Warners' pipelines with an eye toward developing a new master plan for upcoming releases that will be announced by January or February, charting the studio's priorities more clearly.

Nelson, a specialist in brand management and marketing, has overseen the Harry Potter franchise for the studio and will continue to manage it, even beyond the release of the final film in the series in 2011.

"What we've done with Harry Potter -- working together across Warners and even Time Warner to develop a focus and a strategic point of view -- is a good model for what we want to do with DC Comics," she said. "It will be a reciprocal relationship, working closely with the executives there and with the executives within each of our divisions to incubate and build new brands. It's a great opportunity to bring more coordination and to focus and integrate DC with Warners more effectively."

Robinov and Nelson said Levitz had been part of the ongoing discussions and that he would be involved in the search for a new publisher for DC Comics. "I will not be acting as publisher of DC," said Nelson, who will report to Robinov.

They both expressed the hope that Levitz will continue to lend his expertise to the newly reorganized division as he moves into his new role as writer and consultant.

While DC Comics has been part of the Warners fold since 1969, the studio's success in exploiting its comics library has come in waves, including "Superman" in 1978, Tim Burton's "Batman" in 1989 and Chris Nolan's successful reboot "Batman Begins" in 2005. In between, though, other DC-inspired projects have either disappointed or fallen by the wayside.

The studio is making a renewed effort to maximize the DC titles. On the film side, "Jonah Hex," a supernatural Western starring Josh Brolin, has just completed filming; "The Green Lantern," to star Ryan Reynolds, is in development for 2011 release; and Guy Ritchie is attached to direct "Lobo," based on the DC Comics anti-hero; Warners TV is producing "Human Target" for Fox's midseason lineup and developing "Midnight Mass"; Warner Premiere just launched its "Green Lantern: First Flight" DVD; and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has been getting rave reviews for its new video game "Batman: Arkham Asylum."

Robinov pointed out how Nolan reached out to the DC staff for help in researching Batman story lines and lore as an example of how he sees Warners working with DC moving forward.

At the same time, the studio -- which in the past has farmed out the responsibilty for developing various DC characters to producers in its stable -- is taking the reins in feature development. While in some cases filmmakers like Nolan and his fellow producers Emma Thomas and Charles Roven will remain deeply involved in the process, in others, the studio's development team will take the lead.

"What we've been doing on the feature side is get as many properities up and ready to go on the runway as quickly as possible," Robinov said.

At the same time, the old model, where first a feature is produced and then ancillaries are spun off, is falling by the wayside.

At Warner Premiere, Nelson already has paved new ground with so-called "motion comics" -- DVD and digital offerings that blend comics panels with limited animation, voice casts and music. In effect, while the studio builds its tentpoles, she's been spinning out separate and complementary story lines.

"You might decide," she explained, "that a character like Batman should live purely in one medium, while another character can be exploited in a lot of different ways across different media. It's about creating mini-brand plans for the first wave of properties that we tap into. We want to create a situation where you take a title, incubate it in digital, grow it in TV and film, look at it through multiple prisms."

Nelson, who's headed Warner Premiere since its founding in 2006, previously served as executive vp, global brand management at WBE. Prior to that, she was exec vp, domestic marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures.