For Warner Bros., a Leadership Change, a Polo Lounge Lunch, and Nagging Questions About DC Films’ Future

Toby Emmerich Warner Bros Picture Group
Michael muller for Variety

It was a public show of “no hard feelings.”

On Friday, Toby Emmerich had a meal with Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy at the Polo Lounge, a hub of deal-making and power lunches, in a move that was clearly designed to send a signal of solidarity to Hollywood. The bread-breaking, which went down as show business players like producer Donald De Line and CAA agent Joel Lubin dined nearby, came just a day after Emmerich announced that he will step down as head of Warner Bros.’ film studio. De Luca, who worked with Emmerich back in the day at New Line, and Abdy will soon join the company, though in a reduced role; they will oversee Warner Bros. and New Line but will not have control over Warner Bros. Animation and DC Films.

But there might be more on the menu. De Luca and Abdy have told people they expect to have input in what DC does in film and television. However, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav still hopes to find his answer to Kevin Feige, the guru who guided Marvel Studios to big-screen dominance for rival Disney. Zaslav already approached Emma Watts, a veteran Fox and Paramount executive, about the job, but the talks collapsed. Insiders say that no announcement about a DC chief is imminent.

As he navigates the film world, Zaslav has relied extensively on the insight of a constellation of industry players, such as former Disney chief Bob Iger and CAA head Bryan Lourd, polling them about his plans to reshape the studio. He is also in talks with former Disney film chief and Warner Bros. leader Alan Horn about becoming a consultant.

The courtship of Watts means Walter Hamada, the current president of DC Films production, has an uncertain future, even though he remains under contract until 2023. Zaslav believes that DC is an under-utilized asset. He’s frustrated that its cinematic output has been inconsistent and that there hasn’t been sufficient long-term planning in terms of rolling out sequels and follow-ups to popular movies. Supporters of Hamada believe the executive hasn’t received enough credit. Under his leadership, the studio scored massive hits with “Aquaman” and “The Batman,” the latter earning the comic book label’s best reviews since Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” They also note that DC has moved more aggressively into multi-platform storytelling, creating spinoff shows out of characters like Peacemaker and Penguin.

Whoever takes over the division will face challenges, including the fate of Superman. Henry Cavill, who played the part in “Man of Steel” and other films, is aging out of the role, and the studio has yet to finalize plans for the Superman film that was being developed with a script from acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

As for Emmerich, he’s in a new position. As part of his exit package, he scored a production deal. But that means he will now be sitting on the other side of the table at pitch meetings. In many cases, the faces that will be staring back at him will belong to his Friday lunch companions — De Luca and Abdy.