Warner Bros. has revealed the latest chapter in how it wants to turn the DC comicbook brand into a major player for the studio, and the central plot involves packing up and moving much of the company from Gotham to Burbank.
Only the publishing side of DC’s business will remain in New York City, which it has called home for the past 70 years.
Warner Bros. is sending in the moving trucks a year after it took over control of DC Comics, and renamed it DC Entertainment, as a way to exploit its stable of superheroes, which include icons like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern, across various platforms from movies and TV shows to videogames and mobile offerings.
But the studio felt it needed DC closer to home in order to take full advantage of the company’s library. Longtime WB homevideo vet Diane Nelson runs the DC Entertainment as its prexy, a post she segued into last September.
At the time, the studio also took back oversight of how each character is developed for various properties. A number of projects, especially bigscreen adaptations, had been in the hands of different producers on the lot or around town, while other WB divisions had creative control over how other installments, like animated series, direct-to-DVD movies and games, were made. That made it difficult to create a cohesive plan for properties across all media. Consumer products were also mostly managed separately.
The shift to L.A. will now enable Nelson and Warner Bros.’ motion picture group prexy Jeff Robinov to collaborate more closely with DC’s new creative chiefs and filmmakers. DC’s chief creative officer Geoff Johns, for example, has written episodes of CW’s “Smallville,” penned the upcoming “DC Universe Online” game and co-produced the “Green Lantern” pic. He will play a key role in working with Christopher Nolan to shepherd future film versions of the Batman and Superman franchises.
By the end of next year, DC will relocate its businesses related to the development and production of feature films, TV, digital media, videogames and consumer products as well as the company’s administrative functions.
“This strategic business realignment allows us to fully integrate and expand the DC brand in feature films as well as across multiple distribution platforms of Warner Bros. and Time Warner,” Robinov said. “We are creating a seamless, cohesive unit that will bring even more great characters and content to consumers everywhere.”
Some layoffs are expected among the 250 DC staffers, but DC execs declined to offer specifics.
While Warners has seen unqualified success with one character — Batman — it’s under pressure to find ways to launch other franchises from the vault, the same way that rival Marvel Entertainment is doing through its own film division, now owned by Disney. With the final two Harry Potter films already in the can and due out in November and July, Warners has is in the hunt for future tentpoles.
Nelson said Tuesday that specifics of the DC expansion plan will be unveiled before the end of the year.
“These organizational changes reinforce the strengths of DC’s greatest legacies — most importantly its people and its creative talent — and offer greater opportunity for maximum growth, success and efficiency in the future,” Nelson said. “Our two offices will stretch and build their respective areas of focus, while prioritizing and aggressively striving to connect and cooperate more strongly than ever before between them and with their colleagues at Warner Bros.”
Warner Bros. is prepping “Green Lantern,” with Ryan Reynolds starring as the ringed hero, for release next summer, and it’s already dated the next Batman pic, to be directed by Nolan, for release on July 20, 2012. Two films based on DC properties — “Jonah Hex” and “The Losers” — underperformed earlier this year.