Veteran Warner Bros Executive Veronika Kwan Vandenberg Steps Down After 30 Years

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Veteran Warner Bros. Pictures executive Veronika Kwan Vandenberg is stepping down as president of international distribution, the studio announced Monday.
She’ll transition to an advisory role before leaving the lot at the end of the year. Her su…

Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara: ‘We Face Headwinds in Every One of Our Businesses’

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Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara made moves on Tuesday to stabilize his film studio against an uncertain $85 billion merger with AT&T, but his company’s challenges are not just in media consolidation, he told TheWrap.

“We face headwinds in every single one of our businesses. Each are more competitive than they were yesterday,” Tsujihara told TheWrap shortly after promoting Toby Emmerich from studio president and chief creative officer to chairman of the motion picture group.

He also upped executives Blair Rich and Ron Sanders to key marketing and distribution roles left vacant by a departing Sue Kroll, a 23-year studio veteran who will become a producer on the lot from her SVP marketing role.

Also Read: Warner Bros Leadership Shake-Up: Toby Emmerich to Run Studio, Sue Kroll Steps Down

“The key thing we need to do is maintain our cultural relevance. I don’t think it’s healthy the way the business is becoming so binary — either so successful or so challenging,” Tsujihara said of the industry’s reliance on tentpole films like the superhero fare that brought Warner Bros. nearly 19 percent of the theatrical market last year, second only to Disney.

“As an industry, we need to continue to create a balanced slate of all types of movies and all genres. Current economics make that challenging, but requires you to have fresh, high-quality movies, because of television and all the other options,” he said.

He’s got the right hire in Emmerich, who made a name for himself as a producer and procurer of relevant and innovative low-to-mid-budget genre titles that return big. Last year’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “It” starring Bill Skarsgard made a staggering $700 million worldwide on a $35 million budget.

Warner Bros. posted a reported an all-time high profit of a $1.7 billion last year thanks to the DC Films unit (“Wonder Woman,” “Justice League”) and a savvy extension of the Harry Potter universe (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”).

Also Read: DC Films Shakeup: Warner Bros Promotes Walter Hamada to Production Head of Unit

The executive ceded this that this success came at a time of “more vertical integration than ever before.”

Tsujihara has been one of the most outspoken media executives when it comes to evolving consumer taste — specifically around the theatrical release window, virtually all studios are warily trying to shorten the time between a film’s debut in theaters and home entertainment or streaming availability.

TheWrap asked if conversations were still going on between the studio and American theater owners, who are vehemently opposed to reducing the current 90-day exclusivity period they enjoy with new releases.

“Shrinking windows closer? I can’t say that we are,” Tsujihara said,  adding that the average consumer does not distinguish a theatrical release from a pay TV window or an iTunes debut these days.

“We’ve got to make it more seamless for consumers to find what they want when they want it,” he said.

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Warner Bros Leadership Shake-Up: Toby Emmerich to Run Studio, Sue Kroll Steps Down

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

In a significant studio shakeup under the shadow of a looming merger, Warner Bros. on Tuesday promoted Toby Emmerich to chairman of the motion picture group, with veteran marketing-distribution head Sue Kroll stepping aside to a production deal.

Emmerich will now effectively lead the major studio, allowing Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara to step back from day-to-day management.

Meanwhile, Kroll will transition into a three-year producing deal starting in April with her duties running distribution and marketing handed to two other veteran Warner Bros. executives.

Also Read: How ‘Justice League’ Became a ‘Frankenstein’ (Exclusive)

Blair Rich becomes president of worldwide marketing, reporting to Emmerich. Ron Sanders, previously head of home entertainment, becomes president of worldwide distribution, reporting to both Emmerich and Tsujihara.

The shakeup happens as telecom giant AT&T attempts to complete its $85 billion acquisition of studio parent Time Warner. But that merger has been thrown into question by a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice under antitrust provisions. A trial is expected in March.

Kroll will stay on to oversee awards campaigns and the release of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” which comes out on March 30. Kroll will take on producing duties on two high profile films, Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” and a long-in-the-works adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel “Motherless Brooklyn.”

Also Read: The ‘Justice League’ That Might Have Been: We’ve Seen the Script (Exclusive)

Sue Kroll

The move is the biggest shakeup at the studio since a triumvirate structure was put in place in 2015, with Emmerich, Kroll and Greg Silverman put in charge of the studio. Silverman left in December 2016.

Kroll is one of the most experienced executives in Hollywood, having been at Warner Bros for more than 20 years. Rich has been her deputy and is seen as a rising talent at the studio.

Tsujihara has another year on his contract, and his future at the studio is likely dependent on whether the merger with AT&T happens. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is expected to step down when and if that occurs.

Regardless, Tsujihara will step back from day to day operations of running the studio in favor of Emmerich, whose sleeper hit “It” was one of the most profitable movies of last year, taking in $700 million worldwide on a $35 million budget.

Also Read: Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara MIA at CinemaCon Presentation

“We need to constantly adapt our operations to stay ahead of [these] changes, while preserving our creative excellence,” Tsujihara said in a statement. “Bringing together film and home entertainment marketing and distribution 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.”

Emmerich said, “I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity to help continue Warner Bros. Pictures’ legacy of creativity, innovation and excellence. We will remain focused on being the first choice for the world’s best filmmakers, whether they’re making their first film or their 34th. “

In interviews for his bombshell book, “Fire and Fury,” author Michael Wolff has cited White House advisers as saying the AT&T merger with Time Warner is “never going to happen.”

But others have said that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently went out of his way to praise President Trump’s tax bill, citing the creation of thousands of jobs for his company. Some observers have suggested that this was an olive branch intended to facilitate a settlement with the Department of Justice.

Warner Bros. came in second for film studio market share in 2017, thanks to the success of “Wonder Woman” and New Line’s sleeper horror hit “It.”

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