Warner Bros. Discovery’s film studio management structure is taking shape, sources with knowledge of the matter tell The Hollywood Reporter, as the executive team of Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy have reached a deal to run Warners and New Line as soon as Amazon releases them from their contracts at MGM — as soon as next month.
Toby Emmerich, who has been running Warners and New Line since 2017, will exit that role but is expected to get a production deal.
After DeLuca and Abdy depart, their direct reports at MGM will report to Julie Rappaport, under Jen Salke’s oversight, on an interim basis until Mike Hopkins names a replacement and announces a new structure. That structure is expected to involve an expanded film effort for both MGM, including more wide theatrical releases, and Amazon.
Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav’s strategy as he shapes the company is to create three verticals, each with its own leadership: Warner Bros.-New Line under DeLuca and Abdy, DC and Animation. DC Films president Walter Hamada will report to DeLuca and Abdy until new leadership is identified and the head of the animation vertical is yet to be named.
Zaslav’s intention is to model Warners after the system that former Disney CEO Bob Iger implemented at Disney, with the verticals reporting directly to him. Zaslav has talked to former Disney studio chairman Alan Horn about serving as an advisor. (In designing the verticals approach for overseeing Warner Bros. Discovery’s film executive structure, Zaslav consulted not only with Horn but with Iger.)
Sorting out DC remains a major challenge for Zaslav. Sources say he has asked Todd Phillips, the multi-hyphenate who created dark 2019 billion-dollar grosser Joker, to do more in the DC universe, potentially acting as an advisor though he will not serve in an executive capacity. A knowledgeable source says Phillips and Zaslav have discovered a rapport, though Phillips is not an expert on the broader DC universe. While at Disney-owned Marvel, chief creative officer Kevin Feige oversees film, television animation and publishing, there has been no single voice guiding DC. (DC chief Hamada oversees the film universe based on the company’s characters, including its HBO Max spinoffs.) DC’s properties are only loosely connected — and sometimes took place in entirely separate universes, such as the Oscar-winning Joker and Matt Reeves’ The Batman, released in March.
As a veteran of both Disney and Warners, Horn has refrained from working out a formal arrangement until Zaslav sets his executive team. Horn did not want to involve himself earlier due to his relationships with various multiple players or potential players in the mix. His return to Warners is something of a full-circle moment as he left Warners in 2011 amidst corporate shuffling there. He then went on to a vastly successful run at Disney. In a similar vein, De Luca was fired as president of production of New Line in 2001, following a string of flops, including the Adam Sandler bomb, Little Nicky, only to return more than 20 years later as head of the film studio.
Warners declined to comment, as did De Luca and Abdy and Emmerich.
Aaron Couch contributed to this report.