Warner Bros. Film Chief Praises Ousted CEO Kevin Tsujihara: "Godspeed"

Chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group Toby Emmerich-Getty-H 2019
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

"A big thank you from all of us at Warner Bros., and a special wish from me for godspeed," said Toby Emmerich.

Kevin Tsujihara may be gone from Warner Bros. Entertainment, but he wasn’t forgotten at the studio’s CinemaCon presentation Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Toby Emmerich, who worked under the ousted executive and is chairman of the motion picture group, delivered an emotional tribute upon taking the stage to present the studio’s upcoming slate and celebrate the success of last year.

“There is someone who isn’t here but has left his mark in Warner Bros. history, responsible for one of the greatest periods in financial growth in our company, and leading us to be a more diverse and inclusive studio in our executive ranks," he said. "A big thank you from all of us at Warner Bros., and a special wish from me for godspeed to Kevin Tsujihara."

Tsujihara's exit from Warner Bros., where he was chairman and CEO for six years, was announced on March 18. "It is in the best interest of WarnerMedia, Warner Bros., our employees and our partners for Kevin to step down as Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros.," WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in a statement about the move. Tsujihara's replacement has not yet been named.

The shake-up occurred less than two weeks after The Hollywood Reporter published a story revealing texts between Tsujihara and actress Charlotte Kirk, which appeared to show the studio's top exec working to get Kirk roles amid a sexual relationship between the two. The actress appeared in the Warner Bros. films How to Be Single and Ocean's 8.

In 2018, Warner Bros. Pictures made a major comeback at the global box office, where its films earned $5.7 billion, a record for the studio. While Tsujihara left Emmerich to guide the film slate, Tsujihara was a driving force behind Crazy Rich Asians.

"I know it didn't look like traditional WB slate because it wasn't marked by our usual quarterly tentpoles," Emmerich said. "Our evolving strategy of presenting a dynamic mix of genres for diverse audiences we all look for: to motivate people to get off their sofas and into your theaters."

That same strategy continues this year. During Tuesday's CinemaCon presentation — hosted by actress Aisha Tyler — the studio touted talent and footage from its upcoming films, from event pics Godzilla: King of Monsters and It Chapter 2 to midrange titles such as The Kitchen, a female-centric mob pic starring Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy — both of whom took the stage — and drama The Goldfinch. There's also Todd Phillips' The Joker and Pokeman Detective Pikachu.

Warners is also home of the Bill Condon's upcoming drama The Good Liar, starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan. Mirren, who introduced footage alongside Condon, made her own news when telling theaters, "I love Netflix, but fuck Netflix."

To plug Detective Pikachu, the Ryan Reynolds-voiced Pokemon character appeared in hologram form on stage.  Pikachu joked that CinemaCon goers didn't realize that holograms had been part of the convention for years.

"Jeff Goldstein hasn’t' been here in 10 years," the hologram joked fo the Warner Bros. domestic distribution exec. "He's feeding his wild dolphin from his mansion in Bel-Air as we speak."

Warners showed off five minutes of footage from Godzilla: King of the Monsters, beginning with an extended sequence in which an arctic base is being destroyed by Ghidorah, a three-headed monster. Godzilla comes to humanity's rescue, facing down the beast.

Emmerich's team didn't have to do too much promotion for New Line and DC's kid-friendly superhero pic Shazam!, since the film opens Friday, but Warners did show off the first trailer for Joker as well as a little footage from upcoming comic book titles Wonder Woman 1984 and Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). 

The studio closed out the presentation with It: Chapter Two, which director Andy Muschietti said was the first time anyone outside Warners had gotten a look at the film. 

"I'm proud to say all the people I wanted in the movie finally landed in it," said the filmmaker as he introduced the adult versions — including Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader and James McAvoy — of the child characters from his 2017 horror hit.

Katie Kilkenny contributed to this report.