Sue Kroll Named Worldwide Distribution Chief at Warner Bros.; Vet Dan Fellman Leaving (EXCLUSIVE)

Sue Kroll Dan Fellman
Alex J. Berliner/BEI/REX

In a key leadership transition, Warner Bros. worldwide marketing and international distribution chief Sue Kroll is expanding her duties, as domestic distribution head Dan Fellman prepares to step down after nearly four decades at the Burbank studio.

Kroll will become president of worldwide distribution, adding North America to her portfolio. As part of the management shift, international distribution chief Veronika Kwan Vandenberg will take over Fellman’s day-to-day responsibilities, continuing to report to Kroll. Her title will be president of worldwide distribution.

Fellman, who will stay on until the end of the year and then consult for the studio and other clients, is widely respected both within the creative and exhibition communities, and is considered an effective broker in the disagreements that periodically flare-up between studios and theater owners over movie terms. He has been with the studio since 1978, overseeing the successful releases of such hits as “The Dark Knight” trilogy, the Harry Potter series, “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Departed,” and “The Hobbit” trilogy. He is also a governor of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and serves on the board of Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneer Foundation.

Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and chief executive Kevin Tsujihara praised Fellman for a career at the studio that began in the 1970s.

“Dan has done a great job for Warner Bros. and for the industry and the Motion Picture Academy,” Tsujihara said in an interview. “It’s great to have someone like this decide when it’s time to make a transition when they are ready. He will always be part of the Warner’s family and be helpful to me and to Veronika and to Sue as we make this transition.”

Tsujihara said Fellman told him two years ago that he was preparing to move into another phase of his career. “I thought it would be very helpful to our organization to have him work on the transition and have it not be so abrupt,” Tsujihara said. Warner’s chief executive said Fellman readily agreed and that he will be part of a “seamless” passing of the reins to Kwan Vandenberg and Kroll.

The complete unification of the marketing and distribution functions under Kroll will put the company “in a very good place,” Tsujihara said.

“Warner Bros. has been a great family to me,” Fellman told Variety. “I feel as comfortable exiting as I did the day I walked in. It’s been a privilege to watch this company grow into the largest and most successful movie studio in the world.”

Fellman said he first began thinking about retiring from Warner Bros. roughly five years ago, but agreed to stay on to help with the transition after Alan Horn left as the studio chief in 2011 and pledged to remain on board for a few additional years after Horn’s successor Jeff Robinov exited the company abruptly in 2013.

The distribution veteran joked that he’s taken to calling his retirement from Warner Bros. “the long goodbye.” He plans to consult with the studio on projects and will be particularly involved on Clint Eastwood’s films.

“It’s been a wonderful ride,” said Fellman. “But it’s time for me to move on and give up the day to day and night to night to night and weekend to weekend to someone else.”

The leadership transition comes as Warner Bros. has suffered a series of box office disappointments including “Hot Pursuit,” “Entourage,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Jupiter Ascending.” The studio did have hits with Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” the disaster movie “San Andreas” and the comedy “Get Hard.” Its 2016 slate looks more promising, offering up comic book movies like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” along with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” from Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling.

The mediocre performance of the slate this summer has led to some speculation about the future of Warner Bros. worldwide production president Greg Silverman, but sources say that his status is unchanged and that he has two years remaining on his contract. But Tsujihara gave no hint of any changes in the offing or disatisfaction with the studio’s performance. He said he was pleased with Kroll, Silverman and Toby Emmerich, president of the studio’s New Line Cinema unit. “I feel really good about the team we have in place,” Tsujihara said.

Kroll joined Warner Bros. Pictures in 1994, rising up the ranks with stints in international marketing, international channels, and other divisions. She became president of worldwide marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures in January 2008, and her responsibilities were expanded to include international distribution in June 2013.