Warner Bros. has long been known for relying on big-budget tentpoles to not just carry its film slate but also drive the rest of the company’s businesses. In a revealing meeting with investors on Wednesday, however, company chief Kevin Tsujihara stressed the importance of major brands to Warner Bros.’ bottomline for the next six years, with superheroes, Harry Potter and Lego playing major roles.
Some takeaways from Tsujihara’s announced strategy:
Harry Potter’s World Will Continue to Grow: Warner Bros. plans to release three films based on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” in 2016, 2018 and 2020, breathing new life into the Harry Potter franchise with its author J.K. Rowling penning those scripts. Not only will the boy wizard’s world remain on the bigscreen, but the movies will continue to fuel interest in the wildly successful “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” theme parks that Warner Bros. oversees and has built at two Universal theme parks (Orlando, Fla., and Osaka, Japan). A third is in the works for Hollywood, while the announcement of a new Universal theme park in Beijing will likely include a new Potter park, as well.
Lego Joins Harry Potter and DC’s Superheroes as a Key Brand: After the success of “The Lego Movie” earlier this year — it went on to earn $468 million worldwide — three new films are planned with “Lego Ninjago” in 2016, “Lego Batman” in 2017, and “The Lego Movie 2″ in 2018. The building blocks have clearly become a major property for Warner Bros. to exploit across its various divisions, including its games group, and a lucrative way to reach families. It has had mixed success doing so through its animated films in the past. That doesn’t look to be a problem anymore now that Warner Bros. is building a home for Lego on the lot.
Creating New Stars: Appearing in ensemble movies like “Justice League” and having roles starting with “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” was already a career high point for actors like Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Ray Fisher (Cyborg), but standalone movies for the characters, and newly announced films for Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) just gave those relative newcomers a major push that could turn transform them into A-listers with their own franchises. Dwayne Johnson could add “Shazam” to “Fast & Furious,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “G.I. Joe” as a new franchise on his resume, should the film perform well at the box office.
Growing the Consumer Products Biz: Now that a strategy is in place from DC for its superhero films through 2020, Warner Bros.’ consumer products arm has a clearer picture with which it can build licensing and merchandise programs around each character. That’s important since it can often take some time to wrangle licensees to design toys, apparel and other products, as well as retail partners for shelf space and marketing programs. The division typically generates $6 billion for the studio each year, but with DC and new Harry Potter-related films, that is expected to increase considerably.
More Value in Video Games: Warner Bros. cited the success of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, especially with its line of Lego titles, which have generated $2 billion in revenue for the studio. Additional Lego movies should continue to keep that series turning out more games (Warner Bros. owns its creator TT Games), like the upcoming “Batman: Beyond Gotham.” “The Hobbit” trilogy may be ending in December, but new games will also keep that and “The Lord of the Rings” franchise healthy, while “Fantastic Beasts” will clearly lead to forms of gameplay, as well.