Will Warner Bros.' Executive Power Struggle Hurt DC Superhero Movies?

Justice League Superman Warner Bros

Love of cinematic entertainment can often blind one to a diamond-hard truth: For all their ability to make us laugh, send a chill down our spine, transport us to dreamlike worlds, and inspire us to greatness, movies and television are still a business. And that business's internal workings and profit needs can sometimes interfere with its goal to entertain.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than with the venerable Warner Bros. studio, known for decades for its relative reliability and smooth corporate environment. Recently, rumblings of unrest have begun to emerge from the far-reaching media empire – rumblings that may have far-reaching implications for many beloved entertainment franchises, including DC Comics' Justice League.

In a feature article published by The Los Angeles Times this past weekend, it was asserted that a quiet struggle for the top spot of Time Warner, Inc. has begun to slow and outright sour projects within the corporation. According to the feature, current Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes announced in 2010 that he would postpone his planned retirement in order to groom one of three division executives to take his place in 2013. These three candidates are the heads of Warner's Motion Picture, Television, and Home Entertainment divisions: Jeff Robinov, Bruce Rosenblum, and Kevin Tsujihara, respectively.

Instead of fostering an environment of cheerful competition and divisional improvement, Bewkes' challenge has apparently created a gradually curdling atmosphere of paranoia that is said to be strangling cooperation between the three departments. Employees are said to be increasingly sticking to their own divisions, afraid to show disloyalty to any of the three executives. Contracts – some as major as Time Warner's contract with Legendary Pictures – have not been renewed due to fears that fallout over the power struggle will make funding for projects unexpectedly shrink and/or vanish.

Time Warner owns countless subsidiary corporations, some of which are entertainment titans in their own right. These include movie distributor New Line Cinema, television networks such as HBO, and other companies like DC Comics. If The Los Angeles Times' article is accurate, these subsidiaries are also straining under the increasingly acrimonious race for Chief Executive.

Warner Bros Bruce Rosenblum Jeff Robinov Kevin Tsujihara
From left to right: Executives Bruce Rosenblum, Jeff Robinov, and Kevin Tsujihara.

This environment of mistrust and bet-hedging may partially explain why DC Comics has been so slow in its attempts to catch up to the ferociously successful pace of Marvel Studios. After the failure of Green Lantern to launch a Marvel-style shared cinematic universe, DC is once again searching for ways to make properties other than Batman viable on the big screen (we even offered up 5 tips on how to do it). With the possibility of a companywide shakedown in the wings, the prospect of devoting resources to properties such as The Flash, Wonder Woman, or any other DC title must be tenuous, indeed.

That said, an uncertain corporate environment obviously hasn't kept the entertainment giant from making inroads with such plans. After all, next year will see the release of Man of Steeland Justice League film is intended to to go head-to-head with The Avengers 2 and Star Wars: Episode 7 in the summer of 2015. In the context of corporate political struggle, the decision to make Justice League the starting point of a shared DC film universe makes quite a bit of sense (read our explanation why). The superhero team-up film will begin production after the new Chief Executive is chosen next year, leaving plenty of room to figure out whether the new Warner Bros. environment is amenable to launching a franchise loosely modeled after Marvel's. Man of Steel is an exception to this, of course, but that film is also heavily backed by a guaranteed name in Dark Knight Trilogy director, Christopher Nolan.

All three of the named candidates for Warner's Chief Executive chair are accomplished men; no matter which of them ends up getting the spot, Time Warner, Inc. will probably be in good hands. However, one wonders if the toxic environment left by their ascent will be conducive to the growth and well-being of the company – not to mention its many promising projects.


Justice League will (hopefully) be released in summer of 2015.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

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