In the wake of yet another Warner Bros. management shakeup, something new has emerged: the beginning of a vision for DC Films, or at least the freedom to forge one. 2017 was a helluva year for WB and DC; just when it seemed like they had turned a corner with Wonder Woman, they stumbled with Justice League — a film that’s polarized fans and the media. 2018 is a crucial year of change for the studio, but what kinds of changes — and what they yield — is a story that will be told over the next several years, as Aquaman is currently the only film they’re releasing this year (and it’s not hitting until December).
WB Entertainment CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, is streamlining his organization, according to TheWrap. He’s moved some people out — veteran marketing chief Sue Kroll is stepping down — and delegating and investing more in new WB Pictures Chairman Toby Emmerich, who now reports solely to Tsujihara. Emmerich will assume responsibility for worldwide theatrical production, marketing, and distribution, as reported by Deadline.
“Toby has greenlight, I have red light,” said Tsujihara in a lovely haiku — a rather naked effort to convey his shift toward simplicity and accountability. Tsujihara is positioned to be a check on Emmerich’s new power, and therefore DC Films’ success or failure is laser-focused on what these two can achieve. Accountability!
Tsujihara is refocusing DC Films with a top-down approach. His first step is to scrap WB’s “decision-by-committee” practice (a choice that Marvel Studios recently made too). Aligning the entire organization under Emmerich cedes more power to him, obviously, but it also cuts out a lot of middlemen. No mention was made of new DC Films president, Walter Hamada, who’s almost certainly reporting to Emmerich; both men worked at New Line, so one assumes the line of decision-making includes Hamada. Tsujihara is betting on Emmerich’s (and by extension, Hamada’s) vision for DC Films, empowering them discover their own distinct identity. He explains:
“Warner Bros. needs to continue doing what it’s always done: producing the biggest, most diverse slate in the business. That’s what’s made us successful. We can’t do what Disney’s done. It’s worked really, really well for them, but it’s not who we are. We need to continue to create a balanced slate of all types of movies and all genres.”
Tsujihara’s candor is shocking — you simply don’t hear remarks like this from a studio head. He’s acknowledging that WB can’t replicate the MCU, and more important: they shouldn’t try. This is a remarkable admission of failure, if you read between the lines, and suggests that he’s more interested in making great movies than pursuing shared universes. The bones of this premise can be seen in Wonder Woman, a superhero film that very much stands on its own, even when it’s nodding at the larger canvas.
This is important because, aside from Wonder Woman, every recent DC Film has struggled narratively or critically or financially (sometimes all at the same time); to continue with the status quo would be madness. I really admire what Tsujihara’s doing here, he’s essentially stating that DC Films will forge its own path, do its own thing, and be judged by the merits of its own vision going forward. Kudos to you Mr. Tsujihara! I hope DC fans (and WB investors) give him the rope to see this through, because it’s going to take a while.
There’s a lot to do, beginning with a reset or a recalibration of the massive slate of DC superhero films announced, retracted, and re-announced over the last few years. Aquaman, Shazam, Wonder Woman 2, and The Batman are their immediate priorities, but what comes next and how it’s presented to fans and the media is critical. Remember that Tsujihara and Emmerich are not writing scripts nor directing actors. For this new plan to work they still need to identify great scripts and talented folks to execute them.
By grabbing the reigns as Tsujihara and Emmerich are doing, the entire organization becomes flatter and more responsive. If they can delegate the same level of autonomy to their individual movie projects, DC Films has a real chance of re-defining itself and making the kinds of awesome superhero movies that fans deserve.
Do you think the recent leadership changes at WB and DC Films will result in better superhero movies in the future? Let us know in the comments down below!