Emmerich previously served as president and COO at New Line Cinema, where he was known for his strong relationships with talent and for guiding horror and raunchy comedy hits to the big screen. He played an integral role in the production of “The Conjuring,” “Horrible Bosses,” “Wedding Crashers,” and the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films.
Emmerich’s top deputies at New Line, Richard Brener and Carolyn Blackwood, will now oversee that division, according to sources.
The studio spin is that Silverman is stepping down to launch an independent production company that will work with Warner Bros. Though Silverman was liked personally and signed a three-year contract extension earlier in 2016, top brass at Warner Bros. and its parent company Time Warner had become increasingly concerned about a number of costly film flops that hit theaters while he was running production. Those failures include “Pan,” “In the Heart of the Sea,” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” The company’s leadership was also unhappy with the poor critical reception for “Suicide Squad” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” two DC Comics adaptations intended to kick off an ambitious series of interconnected superhero films.
Silverman did oversee some hits during his tenure, among them “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “American Sniper.”
In a sign of his new power, Warner Bros. said that Emmerich will share green-light authority with Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara to determine which projects are ultimately made by Warner Bros. Pictures Group’s production entities. The promotion elevates him above Sue Kroll, the worldwide marketing and distribution chief. She serves on the green-light committee, but does not have final say on which pictures get made.
Emmerich’s promotion comes as Warner Bros. is trying to rebuild its slate of top franchises. The studio sees DC Comics, Lego-branded animated fare, and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” as the three major properties it can build its future around. Though Emmerich is known for his story sense and creative chops, as well as fiscal prudence, he is not widely associated with those large-scale blockbusters. There have been exceptions, such as the J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations and “San Andreas,” but his greatest successes have been mid-budget horror films and comedies.
Emmerich has a close relationship with Tsujihara and is also well-liked by Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes. The company’s New York leadership likes that Emmerich is seen as low-maintenance. The corporate chiefs have long felt there was too much infighting going on at the Hollywood operation and that it reflected poorly on the company.
After Tsujihara took over Warner Bros. in 2013, he instituted a tripartite structure that had Silverman, Kroll, and Emmerich serving as co-equals. But some directors and producers privately complained that this egalitarianism led to a clashing of egos and left the studio without the strong creative direction it needed.
Warner Bros. will invest in Silverman’s new venture, sources tell Variety. The company believes that the former production chief has valuable relationships with Chinese players and a wide network of contacts.
Emmerich will continue to be the final authority at New Line and will remain in charge at Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, the company’s live stage play division.
The executive shuffle with Silverman and Emmerich also comes at a time of great corporate upheaval. Time Warner recently announced that it had reached a deal to sell itself to AT&T for $85.4 billion. That pact still needs regulatory approval.