DreamWorks Studios has named Michael Wright, former president and head of programming at TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, as its new CEO, replacing Stacey Snider who will leave the company at the beginning of January.
Wright will not be a partner at the studio, as Snider was, and will not be involved with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television operations when he starts the job Jan. 3.
Spielberg made the hire as Snider is prepping to leave DreamWorks for 20th Century Fox. He had previously worked with Wright on several DreamWorks TV series that aired on TNT, including “Falling Skies” and the miniseries “Into the West,” and often praised the executive.
“I have had the pleasure of working alongside Michael for many years and have come to know him as a talented executive whose creativevision, leadership, and passion are a perfect fit for our company,” Spielberg said in a statement announcing Wright’s hire. “He has akeen understanding of storytelling and how to deliver those stories in every shape and size, regardless of platform. I am delighted to welcome him to DreamWorks Studios.”
He added that Snider has been “an important part of my life for two decades and I want to acknowledge her many accomplishments at the company as well as her friendship and counsel which have been so important to me. I’d also like to express my appreciation for her guidance and support throughout the transition.”
Wright joined Turner Broadcasting in 2002, and has been president and head of programming at the three networks since 2012. He announced last month that he was exiting as programming president of TNT, TBS and TCM.
A former packaging agent at CAA and actor, Wright has focused much of his career in television, working as a VP of movies and miniseries at CBS before spending the past decade at Turner, more recently scoring with tentpole series like the Michael Bay-produced “The Last Ship,” a significant hit for TNT this summer, “Legends,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and “Major Crimes,” a spinoff of “The Closer.” He also launched “Falling Skies,” “Southland,” “Men of a Certain Age,” and revived “Couger Town” on TBS after it was canceled by ABC. Frank Darabont’s “Mob City” was one of his few misses.
In June, Wright told Variety that “I’ve always maintained that network executives don’t create hit television shows — really talented showrunners do. So the single best thing you can do is create an environment where the Howard Gordons and Steven Bochcos and Steven Spielbergs of the world want to come work with you.” Little did Wright know at the time that he would now be working for Spielberg.
“The opportunity to join DreamWorks Studios and to work for Steven Spielberg, whose creative voice and vision have influenced me throughout my career, is truly a dream come true,” Wright said in a statement. “Steven and I have worked together on numerous projects over the years, it has never been less than an exciting, enlightening, fulfilling experience, and it has always led to the telling of stories of which I was proud to be a part. This is an exceptional time of change in our industry with exciting new voices and storytelling platforms emerging all around us, and I am looking forward to positioning the company to thrive in this evolving environment.”
With Snider departing, day-to-day creative reins at DreamWorks have been handled by production president Holly Bario, who was considered one of the lead candidates to succeed the executive when her contract expires at the end of year end.
Barrio will stay at DreamWorks, along with Jeff Small, president and chief operating officer. Kristie Macosko Krieger will become a producer for the company, rounding out the studio’s senior management team.
Amblin Television will continue to remain a separate company run by Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey.
Wright’s hire comes as DreamWorks, which continues to be funded by India’s Reliance Entertainment and releases its films through Disney, has scaled back budgets and number of films it produces each year after its recent releases have struggled at the box office, including “Delivery Man” and “The Fifth Estate.” Going forward, it plans to make around four films a year.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” has performed respectably with $42 million in a month but its “Need for Speed” underperformed earlier this year.
The studio has Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book “The BFG,” which will hit theaters on July 1, 2016, and a Cold War spy thriller starring Tom Hanks that he also will direct.
In addition, there’s “The Light Between Ocean,” which started production this month, an adaptation of “The Ghost in the Shell” that Rupert Saunders will direct and “Las Madres.”