HOLLYWOOD — Why did Lorenzo di Bonaventura really step down as Warners’ pic topper?
Was it “quality of life,” or did he overstep his bounds by complaining to Jeffrey Bewkes, AOL Time Warner’s newly installed entertainment and networks group president, about the failure of “Pluto Nash” and its ties to Warners chief operating officer Alan Horn?
It’s a fact that the ambitious and peripatetic di Bonaventura had been heard around town griping about the failure of “Nash,” a project released Aug. 16 and overseen by Castle Rock Entertainment, Horn’s alma mater.
It’s also a fact that di Bonaventura was in Gotham Aug. 26 for the premiere of “City by the Sea,” a film financed by Franchise Pictures and released by Warners.
What’s unclear is if, while in NYC, di Bonaventura sought an audience with Bewkes that led to his downfall. At that meeting di Bonaventura may have badmouthed his boss Horn.
But WB insiders note that di Bonaventura surely was prepared to exit if his entreaty to Bewkes failed.
Still, you don’t survive 15 years on the lot without political smarts. So even if di Bonaventura did attempt to upstage his boss, he viewed the brash maneuver as at worst a ticket out of the company with a golden parachute.
But there’s now an even bigger question: How will Warners fare without di Bonaventura?
With AOL TW facing all manner of unrest — and a stock price hovering around $12 — the loss of the vet exec couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Despite AOL claims to the contrary, Warners’ feature division has become the jewel in the corporation’s crown over the last two years. Not only did di Bonaventura oversee a slate that balanced edgy pics like “Training Day” with carefully nurtured franchises like “Harry Potter,” he also championed a hybrid in “The Matrix.”
Granted, much of that (especially “The Matrix”) was done with the able assistance of production president Jeff Robinov, now the studio’s highest-ranking production exec.
But Robinov, who already has a full plate overseeing the “Loony Tunes” and “Matrix” franchises along with the pricey epic “Troy,” has held his new title for just eight weeks.
Now, he and Horn also shoulder the weight of di Bonaventura’s considerable load and Horn’s goal of releasing five tentpole movies each year.
At least di Bonaventura will be around to pitch in: With his exit from the exec suite, he’ll segue to become a producer on the lot. His first project: “Constantine,” an adaptation of DC Comics’ “Hellblazer.”