Veteran film executive Toby Emmerich is exiting his post as Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman, three sources told Variety.
A company man who survived numerous WB ownership changes for over two decades, Emmerich’s transition out of the role follows weeks of chatter that he was leaving the studio. He will be replaced by Michael De Luca, and Pamela Abdy, who will be named co-chairs of Warner Bros. Picture Group. A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though a formal announcement of the leadership change is expected imminently.
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De Luca and Abdy’s oversight will also include New Line Cinema. Their influence over DC Films is presently unclear. The pair recently led Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer until that company was sold to Amazon. At MGM, the duo landed buzzy projects such as “Licorice Pizza,” “Cyrano” and “House of Gucci,” though critics noted that some of these movies failed to perform at the box office.
Emmerich was named chairman in 2018 and has overseen Warner Bros. during a time of upheaval, one that has seen it endure two major corporate shakeups. First, the company was sold to AT&T, but massive debt and the telecom’s decision to exit the media business in order to concentrate resources on building out its 5G network resulted in another sale, with Discovery taking over the company this year.
Under newly minted CEO David Zaslav, the company was rechristened Warner Bros. Discovery with an eye towards bolstering its in-house streaming service HBO Max and complementing that content with Discovery’s reality programming. Emmerich’s departure raises questions about the future of several key lieutenants at the studio, many who have served at his side for decades. Among those whose future is murky is DC Films chief Walter Hamada, who had been credited with stabilizing the cinematic output at the division and bringing some quality control to a company that had suffered several critical failures such as “Suicide Squad” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
De Luca and Abdy presumably have their own roster of executives that they will want to bring over. With De Luca, Zaslav is getting a seasoned executive and producer with deep ties to the creative community. Over the course of his career, De Luca has championed and worked alongside the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, and Paul Greengrass. He was also Oscar-nominated for producing the likes of ‘The Social Network,” “Moneyball,” and “Captain Philips.”
Emmerich’s reputation was challenged after former Warner Bros. CEO Jason Kilar decided to release the studio’s entire 2021 film slate concurrently in theaters on HBO Max. That left Emmerich to repair strained relationships with talent and their incensed agents. Generous backend payouts to the impacted filmmakers and actors helped ease those tensions.
In 2016, Emmerich was promoted to president and chief content officer at the studio after a long run overseeing New Line, the Warners division responsible for “The Conjuring” and “Lord of the Rings” franchises. Emmerich was well-liked by his executive team and respected for his deep sense of story and filmmaking (he’s penned the scripts for 2000’s “Frequency” and 2007’s “The Last Mimzy”). Sources say that Emmerich opted to leave of his own volition, but Zaslav had also had a series of meetings with potential replacements around Hollywood that may have contributed to the executive’s decision to move along. He is expected to get some kind of production deal.
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