Warner Bros.' Kevin Tsujihara Among Hard-to-Get Candidates for Sony Studio Job

Kevin Tsujihara - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Event 2016-Getty-H 2017
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Sony was interested in the Warners exec for the top studio job but there are complications, sources say.

As Viacom appears to be wrapping up a deal with former Fox studio chairman Jim Gianopulos to run Paramount Pictures, industry insiders are turning their attention to Sony Pictures, the other troubled studio currently in search of new leadership.

Speculation over who will replace outgoing Sony CEO Michael Lynton has involved a couple of major names that may prove to be ungettable. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Sony had its eye on Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, 52, for the top job, but complications in extricating him from his present position have caused him to fade, for now at least, from Sony's shortlist. (A Warners source says Tsujihara never interviewed for the job.) Another candidate, Tom Staggs, is seen as unlikely to be lured by the Sony job but remains of interest. Former Fox Networks Group chairman Tony Vinciquerra has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. Sony declined to comment on the search. FX chief John Landgraf was also approached about the job, according to sources, but passed.

It is easy to see why Tsujihara’s background running a diversified film, television and digital studio would be appealing to Sony's Japanese owners. In addition, Tsujihara's experience in home video and gaming would seem like a major positive for Sony, which hopes to create original content for PlayStation, one of the top gaming consoles and an entertainment hub. And Tsujihara, the industry’s first Asian-American studio chief, is of Japanese descent, which might hold some appeal for Sony executives in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, there has been long-standing speculation in the industry that when and if AT&T completes its purchase of Time Warner, the new owner would make changes at Warners. Tsujihara might feel that moving to the top job at Sony Pictures is preferable to waiting to see what unfolds. Warners did not respond to a request for comment. 

Tsujihara became Warner Bros.' chairman and CEO in 2013 after a tortured bake-off process that saw his chief rivals, top television executive Bruce Rosenblum and film studio chief Jeff Robinov, leave the company. The studio has had mixed success in the years since. The D.C. Comics universe has been a top priority, and while films featuring the characters have pulled in respectable grosses, they have failed to please many fans or to match the consistent success of Disney’s Marvel. (Even Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the two most iconic characters in the history of comics, topped out at $873 million. By contrast, Disney got Captain America: Civil War — to take a recent example — to $1.15 billion.)

Tsujihara was credited with courting J.K. Rowling for a series of Harry Potter spinoff movies; the first installment, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, grossed $812 million and restarted the dormant franchise. He also has been negotiating with theater owners to allow premium, in-home viewing of movies.