It's been a strange year for Warner Bros. 2016 has been the studio's second-most-profitable year ever, with seven films breaking $100 million in the domestic box office. The contrast with last year — where only two reached that financial milestone — is remarkable. Yet, in spite of Warner's box office success, the reality is that not all of these movies were critical hits, to say the least. Now, with Greg Silverman (the President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production) stepping down, Warner Bros. appears to be changing the narrative.
What's Going On?
Greg Silverman has largely been responsible for Warner's film productions through 2015 and 2016. While 2015 was a tough year, 2016 showed a marked financial improvement — but not a critical one. The studio enjoyed blockbuster hits in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but neither of these major films gained critical acclaim. Warner Bros. has spent most of the year on the back foot, restructuring and reorganizing in order to ensure the #DCEU was delivered effectively.
Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara paid tribute to Silverman in the official press release.
"2016 was a great year for us, and Greg has been a big part of that—from the launch of our DC film universe with “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” to helping realize the next franchise in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, expanding the Warner Animation Group brand, and developing mid-budget hits like ‘Sully’ and ‘The Accountant'."
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is particularly important because it breathes new life into one of the studio's most important franchises - Harry Potter. With the promise of four sequels on the horizon, Silverman can be very proud of that particular coup.
According to Silverman, six months ago he told his boss that he wanted to move on. Now, he's launching a whole new enterprise, focused on innovating in technology, TV, digital, and — most significantly — the growing Chinese market. It's a testimony to the strength of Silverman's continuing relationship with Warner Bros. that the studio is intending to be a major partner in his venture.
Controlling the Story
The most interesting side of this, of course, is that the past year has seen Warner Bros. struggling to launch one of their flagship universes: the DCEU. The controversies over flagship films like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have massively colored the public's perception of the studio. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been plagued with leaks; within a day of Suicide Squad's release, we'd already learned the back-office politics that sabotaged the film.
Matters really came to a head in August, with the publication of an anonymous open letter to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara. Purporting to be from a former employee, the letter berated him on the company's performance, and fumed that staff were being laid off because big names like Zack Snyder were making mistakes.
"If I worked at a donut stand, and I kept fucking up donuts, I'd be fired. Even if I made a tiny decent one every now and then, it doesn't matter. I'm gonna get fired."
It's no coincidence that, in the days before Greg Silverman's resignation, Warner Bros. flooded the world with news; we learned that Birds of Prey had morphed into Gotham City Sirens, reuniting Margot Robbie and David Ayer; that DC Film was considering a Deadshot movie; and, in Silverman's exit interview with Deadline, that Ben Affleck's The Batman is scheduled for a 2018 release. The studio's goal has clearly been to try and get a positive message out, hoping to drown out the potential 'shakeup at Warner Bros.' headlines (and the inevitable speculation that Silverman was forced out). Silverman's clearly willing to help — his exit interview is upbeat and positive, pointing to the studio's profits and encouraging people to look at the upcoming slate.
Discover out how Warner Bros. movies fared in the 10 Biggest Global Box Office Hits of 2016:
What's Going to Change?
When Kevin Tsujihara first stepped into place as CEO of Warner Bros., he effectively formed a triumvirate with Greg Silverman, Toby Emmerich, and Sue Kroll. Silverman was focused in on Warner Bros., while Emmerich headed up New Line. It's no surprise that Tsujihara has chosen Emmerich as Silverman's replacement, leading to a wider shakeup over at New Line. In the official press release, Tsujihara explained:
"Toby is incredibly talented, well-respected and the perfect choice to help us continue the momentum of our film operations. He has great relationships across the creative spectrum, from writers and producers to directors and actors. He’s also got a track record of producing hit films from all genres at every budget.”
Under Emmerich's leadership, New Line has been responsible for some of the wider group's greatest successes, so this seems like a smart move.
- 'Make the F****** Donuts Kevin'- This Open Letter to Warner Bros. CEO Reveals the Company's Behind-the-Scenes Problems
- 'Suicide Squad' and 'Fantastic Four': Two Cautionary Tales for Studios
- The Repercussions of 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Continue!
Given Warner Bros. tends to leak like a sieve, I suspect that any juicy details hiding beneath the surface of this story will become public knowledge in short order. That said, it is worth stressing that Greg Silverman isn't exaggerating when he says Warner Bros. has had its second-most-successful year ever. That's a tremendous achievement, and he can bow out with pride.
Do you think 2016 has been a good year for Warner Bros.?
(Source: Deadline. Poll Image Credit: 'The Accountant', Warner Bros.)