Warner Bros. Shake-Up: Sue Kroll Steps Down, Toby Emmerich Promoted

Toby Emmerich and Sue Kroll - Split - Getty - H 2018
Left, Randy Shropshire, right, Kevin Winter, both Getty Images

Blair Rich and Ron Sanders were also promoted as the studio brings film and home entertainment marketing and distribution closer together.

As Warner Bros. shakes up its top executive ranks, Sue Kroll is stepping down as the president of worldwide marketing and distribution, while Toby Emmerich has been named chairman of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group with full oversight of worldwide theatrical production, marketing and distribution.

As part of Warners' reorganization, Blair Rich will head global theatrical and home entertainment marketing as president, worldwide marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Ron Sanders will serve as president, worldwide distribution, Warner Bros. Pitures Group, assuming responsibility for global theatrical distribution while retaining his role as president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“With our pictures group wrapping up a fantastic year, I’m excited that Toby will be taking on this expanded role at the studio,” Warners chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara said Tuesday in announcing the change-up in the executive ranks. “Over the last 12 months — and really throughout his career — he’s proven he has great instincts, the ability to balance the creative and commercial needs of the studio, a deep well of experience and a leadership style that inspires those around him. I look forward to our continuing partnership.”

In a memo to staff, Tsujihara noted that the restructuring is meant to make the studio "more competitive in the global marketplace."

Kroll has had one of the longest tenures in Hollywood of any female executive, having been at the studio for 24 years. She will become a studio-based producer at Warners with offices in the Jack Warner bungalow. Kroll will be attached as producer to the upcoming films A Star Is Born and Motherless Brooklyn when she moves into her new producing role on April 1.

Until then, Kroll will work with Tsujihara as a special advisor on the restructuring of the studio's film and home entertainment divisions. She also will continue to oversee awards campaigns for Dunkirk and Wonder Woman as well as advise on select studio releases such as Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, which will be released in March.

The reorganization, which will bring film and home entertainment marketing closer together, will "allow us to strategically manage film titles through their entire lifecycle. We’ll be better able to respond to consumer demand, while still creating unique theatrical and home entertainment experiences, and provide increased benefits to our filmmaking, exhibition and retail partners," Tsujihara said.

For her part, Kroll said in a statement, ”I’m excited to be moving into this next chapter of my career. I’ve gained valuable insight from my years in marketing and distribution, as well as other aspects of filmmaking, and I’m eager to bring this unique perspective to my role as a producer."

“I’d like to thank Sue for her incredible contributions to our film operations over the last twenty-plus years,” Tsujihara commented. “With her at the helm of our film marketing and distribution efforts, the studio has consistently been recognized as the industry’s gold standard, a tastemaker and the place where top filmmakers want to work. Sue is both creative and strategic and has amazing relationships with filmmakers, so I have no doubt she’ll be a huge asset to our production operations."

Added Emmerich, "Sue holds all the cards to be a successful producer — she’s smart, strategic, creative and has many meaningful relationships with great filmmakers."

Emmerich and Kroll, along with Greg Silverman, were named to a triumvirate running the studio under Tsujihara in 2013, but now only Emmerich remains. In December 2016, Silverman was ousted as the studio's president of worldwide production and replaced with Emmerich, the then-head of New Line.

In June 2016, Kroll extended her contract with the Burbank-based studio in a multiyear deal. She originally joined Warner Bros. in 1994 and has been one of the film division’s senior-most marketing executives for nearly two decades, serving first as senior vp, international marketing and then president, international marketing, from 2000-2007. 

In 2008, Kroll was elevated to president, worldwide marketing. and in 2013, she added responsibility for international distribution to her purview; in 2015, she was named president, worldwide marketing and distribution.

During Kroll's tenure, the film division has crossed the $1 billion mark domestically and internationally in each of the last 18 years; in 2009, Warner Bros. became the first major studio to cross $4 billion in a single year without the addition of secondary division’s receipts; and in 2013, Warner Bros. Pictures became only the second studio in history to cross $5 billion in global box office. Last year was the biggest year in the studio’s history, with $5.13 billion in global box office. But while Warners enjoyed major successes with Wonder Woman and It, its big superhero tentpoles Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and, most recently, Justice League, underperformed in theaters. 

Kroll was behind the campaigns for the studio's billion-dollar franchises like Harry Potter and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and during her tenure the studio also won the best picture Oscar for Argo and received best picture nominations for such films as The Blind Side, Inception, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Gravity, Her, American Sniper and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Rich, who most recently let the marketing efforts on It and helped direct campaigns for such films as Dunkirk and Wonder Woman, will now lead the development and execution of all marketing campaigns for both the studio's global theatrical and home entertainment releases. She will have oversight of Warners' worldwide creative advertising, publicity, media, global digital, global promotions and worldwide research groups and also will oversee the home entertainment marketing operation.

Sanders will assume oversight of the teams responsible for all global film distribution and release functions and will also retain his responsibilities as president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, overseeing the global distribution of home entertainment products from Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Bros. Television Group and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. He also is responsible for the studio’s videogame publishing business, and helped build WBHE into the industry’s largest digital distributor of films and TV shows through VOD and EST.

The Rich and Sanders promotions are effective immediately.

Read Tsujihara's full memo to staff, below.

Dear Colleagues:

I wanted to share some news with you about changes here at Warner Bros. that were announced today.

To make the company more competitive in the global marketplace, we’ll be combining our worldwide theatrical and home entertainment operations, with a focus on maintaining the creative excellence that has defined Warner Bros. since our founding.

As part of this restructuring, Toby Emmerich has been named Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, with responsibility for worldwide production, marketing and distribution. Blair Rich will head global theatrical and home entertainment marketing as President, Worldwide Marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; and Ron Sanders will assume responsibility for global film distribution as President, Worldwide Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures Group while retaining his role as President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.  

Additionally, Sue Kroll, who most recently served as President, Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, will become a studio-based producer, effective April 1. During Sue’s tenure, our film group has consistently been recognized for its strategic and creative global marketing and distribution campaigns. She’s a legend in the marketing world and has been an incredible asset to the company throughout her 24-year career. I’m thrilled that she’ll continue to be part of the Warner Bros. family, and I look forward to working with her in her new role.

Please join me in wishing Sue well, and congratulating Toby, Blair, Ron and Sue as they take on these new responsibilities.