Hollywood 2018: Warner Shake-Up–Toby Emmerich New Chair

Warner shakes up its top executive ranks: Vet Sue Kroll is stepping down as the president of worldwide marketing and distribution, while Toby Emmerich has been named chair of the Warner Pictures Group, fully overseeing worldwide theatrical production, marketing and distribution.

Blair Rich will now head global theatrical and home entertainment marketing as president, worldwide marketing, Warner Pictures Group and Warner Home Entertainment.

Ron Sanders will serve as president, worldwide distribution, Warner Bros. Pitures Group, assuming responsibility for global theatrical distribution while retaining his role as president, Warner Home Entertainment.

“With our pictures group wrapping up a fantastic year, I’m excited that Toby will be taking on this expanded role at the studio,” Warners chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara said in announcing the change-up in the executive ranks. “Over the last 12 months — and really throughout his career — he’s proven he has great instincts, the ability to balance the creative and commercial needs of the studio, a deep well of experience and a leadership style that inspires those around him. I look forward to our continuing partnership.”

In a memo to staff, Tsujihara noted that the restructuring is meant to make the studio “more competitive in the global marketplace.”

Kroll has had one of the longest tenures in Hollywood of any female exec–24 years. She will become a studio-based producer at Warners with offices in the Jack Warner bungalow. Kroll will be producer to the upcoming films A Star Is Born and Motherless Brooklyn beginning April 1.

Until then, Kroll will work with Tsujihara as a special advisor on the restructuring of the studio’s film and home entertainment divisions. She also will continue to oversee awards campaigns for Dunkirk and Wonder Woman and advise on Spielberg’s Ready Player One, to be released in March.

The reorganization brings film and home entertainment marketing closer together.  It will “allow us to strategically manage film titles through their entire lifecycle. We’ll be better able to respond to consumer demand, while still creating unique theatrical and home entertainment experiences, and provide increased benefits to our filmmaking, exhibition and retail partners,” Tsujihara said.

Kroll said in a statement: ”I’m excited to be moving into this next chapter of my career. I’ve gained valuable insight from my years in marketing and distribution, as well as other aspects of filmmaking, and I’m eager to bring this unique perspective to my role as a producer.”

“I’d like to thank Sue for her incredible contributions to our film operations over the last twenty-plus years,” Tsujihara commented. “With her at the helm of our film marketing and distribution efforts, the studio has consistently been recognized as the industry’s gold standard, a tastemaker and the place where top filmmakers want to work. Sue is both creative and strategic and has amazing relationships with filmmakers, so I have no doubt she’ll be a huge asset to our production operations.”

Added Emmerich, “Sue holds all the cards to be a successful producer–she’s smart, strategic, creative and has many meaningful relationships with great filmmakers.”

Emmerich and Kroll, along with Greg Silverman, were named to a triumvirate running the studio under Tsujihara in 2013, but now only Emmerich remains. In December 2016, Silverman was ousted as the studio’s president of worldwide production and replaced with Emmerich, then-head of New Line.

In June 2016, Kroll extended her contract with the Burbank-based studio in a multiyear deal. She originally joined Warner in 1994 and has been one of the film division’s senior-most marketing executives for nearly two decades.

In 2008, Kroll was elevated to president, worldwide marketing, and in 2013, she added international distribution to her purview. In 2015, she was named president, worldwide marketing and distribution.

During Kroll’s tenure, the film division has crossed the $1 billion mark domestically and internationally in each of the last 18 years; in 2009, Warner became the first major studio to cross $4 billion in a single year without the addition of secondary division’s receipts; and in 2013, Warner became only the second studio in history to cross $5 billion in global box office. Last year was the biggest year in the studio’s history, with $5.13 billion in global box office. But while Warners enjoyed major successes with Wonder Woman and It, its big superhero tentpoles Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and, most recently, Justice League, underperformed in theaters.

Kroll was behind the campaigns for the studio’s franchises like Harry Potter and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and during her tenure the studio also won the best picture Oscar for Argo and received best picture nominations for such films as The Blind Side, Inception, Gravity, Her, American Sniper and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Rich, who most recently let the marketing efforts on It and helped direct campaigns for Dunkirk and Wonder Woman, will now lead the development and execution of all marketing campaigns for both the studio’s global theatrical and home entertainment releases. She will have oversight of Warners’ worldwide creative advertising, publicity, media, global digital, global promotions and worldwide research groups and also will oversee the home entertainment marketing operation.

Sanders will oversee the teams responsible for all global film distribution and release functions and will also retain his responsibilities as president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, overseeing the global distribution of home entertainment products from Warner Pictures Group, Warner Television Group and Warner Interactive Entertainment. He also is responsible for the studio’s videogame publishing business, and helped build WBHE into the industry’s largest digital distributor of films and TV shows through VOD and EST.

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