Veteran distribution and exhibition executive Kurt Rieder has been appointed as head of Asia-Pacific theatrical releasing for Warner Bros. Pictures. Asia is the world’s largest theatrical region, dwarfing North America and including three of the top five theatrical territories.
Singapore-based Rieder joins from Disney, where he had been head of studio distribution and marketing in the APAC region between April 2019 and March 2021. He joined Disney having previously been executive VP of theatrical distribution at Fox since June 2017.
Before that, Rieder had some six years running cinema chains. Between April 2011 and April 2013, he headed Singapore’s largest cinema chain Golden Village. That was followed by operating Mars Cinemas, Turkey’s largest theatrical firm, between May 2013 and October 2016, departing when the company was acquired by South Korea’s CJ-CGV.
Warner Bros.’ parent company WarnerMedia, now part of AT&T, revamped its Asian management in November last year under regional head Clement Schwebig. It put the Turner and HBO TV businesses under the same roof as Warner Bros.’ theatrical distribution, TV syndication, home entertainment, consumer products, gaming and location-based entertainment activities. But the key head of theatrical position was left vacant.
Within the Asia-Pacific region, Rieder will have direct responsibility for theatrical business in Schwebig’s India, Southeast Asia and Korea business unit. Warner Bros.’ international theatrical operations are headed by Andrew Cripps who Rieder previously reported to at Fox. Cripps moved to Warner following the Disney takeover of 21st Century Fox.
The Rieder move also comes at a time when WarnerMedia is shaking up film releasing. For 2021, the second year dented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the studio has committed itself to releasing films simultaneously in theaters and, where applicable, on its direct-to-consumer streaming platform HBO Max. The conglomerate launched HBO Max in the U.S. last year, and is expected to roll it out in Latin America in mid-year, but it has not yet committed itself to a date for launch in Asia.
The position of Asia as the world’s most important theatrical market was reinforce by the impact of the coronavirus. Where it accounted for 42% of global box office revenues in 2019, according to data published by the Motion Picture Association of America, that proportion rose to 50% in 2020. Box office last year in Asia-Pacific amounted to $6 billion, compared to $2.2 billion in North America.
Before joining Golden Village in 2022, Rieder had a distribution career with Warner Bros. in Indonesia and Malaysia and United International Pictures in Singapore. He had also previously headed Village Cinemas in Argentina and enjoyed an earlier stint at Golden Village. He also had a brief period as MD of Artisan Gateway, a movie sector consultancy which specializes in Asian operations.