Monday morning’s announcement that the Warner Bros. movie studio is now going to be run by a three-member committee is a unique arrangement that consolidates power in the hands of newly minted Warner Bros. chief executive Kevin Tsujihara — with a significant number of direct reports.
In a major departure from the way the Burbank studio has operated in the past, Tsujihara’s new management structure will give him direct say-so over key decisions including which projects receive the green light.
The studio would not comment Monday on who has the final word. Just-departed motion picture group president Jeff Robinov held that authority, as did his former boss, studio president Alan Horn before he was pushed out in 2011. While Warner Bros. will continue to have a greenlight committee composed of top production, marketing and and distribution executives, the buck had previously stopped with the one overseeing the movie group.
Without a mere mention of Robinov’s name in Warner Bros.’ press release, Tsujihara announced that the trio of execs who will now run the studio — production president Greg Silverman, marketing and distribution president Sue Kroll and New Line Cinema president Toby Emmerich — would report directly to him. Robinov has yet to work out a settlement with the studio.
“Clearly, Kevin wanted to run everything,” said a top industry figure responding to the news that Tsujihara was overhauling the movie operation in much the same way he had restructured the TV side just six weeks ago when topper Bruce Rosenblum was pushed out after 26 years with the studio.
Tsujihara, the former chief of home entertainment and digital, shook up the TV operations in mid-May with Craig Hunegs taking on many of the duties previously handled by his boss. Longtime Warner Bros. TV prexy Peter Roth, the creative steward of the studio’s prosperous primetime production unit, is now reporting directly to Tsujihara as is longtime WB TV International chief Jeffrey Schlesinger.
Since Tsujihara assumed the top slot in March, he has surprised Warner Bros. insiders and industry watchers by his degree of involvement in the details of studio business. Having so many direct reports both on the movie and TV sides of the Time Warner owned studio runs counter to the studio’s previous practices and the prevailing wisdom in Hollywood.
Under Horn, Robinov had enjoyed a great deal of creative latitude , as did Horn under his boss, studio chairman Barry Meyer. Meyer, who will retire at the end of the year, had always empowered Horn to oversee the daily operations of the film unit and make executive decisions. Horn, now head of Disney Studios, also gave Robinov a lot of leeway.
By contrast, Harold Vogel, founder and head of Vogel Capital Management and a longtime entertainment industry analyst, told Variety that he’s skeptical of the prospects for three execs to be able to share the duties of running a movie studio effectively without conflicts emerging.
“It’s very hard to function smoothly with three people in charge,” Vogel said. “Eventually one person is going to dominate.”
Vogel, who does not hold a position in Time Warner stock, said the move would probably not impact the stock price over the short term.
“But I would say that the likelihood of this arrangement breaking down over the next year is high,” he added.
Analyst Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities said he’s also uncertain of how the arrangement will work.
“When you have that many people in charge, you have to wonder how the personalities will mesh,” he added. “It’s a very quirky arrangement.”