During the Q3 earnings call for Warner Bros. Discovery, CEO and President of the company David Zaslav zeroed in on franchises like Superman, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings as the tentpoles that should be continued.
After the merger of WarnerMedia with Discovery, the top executive has been pushing hard for revising the direction the entertainment giant will be taking. Placing James Gunn and Peter Safran as the Co-CEOs of the new DC Studios sent ripples in the industry. But it appears Zaslav has only begun, if the fiery statements he made during the Q3 earnings call are any indication.
On November 3, WBD released the third quarter earnings report for 2022. During the proceedings, David Zaslav himself headed the conference call.
“We’re going to focus on franchises,” David Zaslav said. “We haven’t had a #Superman movie in 13 years. We haven’t done a #HarryPotter in 15 years. The DC movies and the Harry Potter movies provided a lot of the profits for Warner Bros” https://t.co/mc2DqWJV8m pic.twitter.com/BNecHp5YLG
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) November 3, 2022
The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery opened up with the value of the company’s massive portfolio of intellectual properties:
At Warner Bros. Discovery, we have one of the strongest portfolio of assets and IP across sports, news, and entertainment, and the best leadership team in media executing against the right strategy and financial framework to drive profitability, generate meaningful shareholder value, and ultimately position us for long-term success.
Zaslav continued by mentioning the steps being taken to leverage their portfolios’ value:
We are reimagining and transforming the organization for the future while driving synergy enterprise-wide, increasing our target to at least $3.5 billion, and making significant progress on our combined DTC product. While we have lots more work to do, and there are some difficult decisions still to be made, we have total conviction in the opportunity ahead.
But beyond the opening statements, the WBD CEO confirmed the strategic shift in committing to their franchises. In the full Q3 earnings call, Zaslav had this to say:
We’re going to have a real focus on franchises. We haven’t had a Superman movie in 13 years. We haven’t had a Harry Potter movie in 15 years. The DC movies and the Harry Potter movies provided a lot of profits to Warner Bros. motion pictures over the last 25 years. House of the Dragon is a big example of that; Game of Thrones, taking advantage of Sex and the City. Lord of the Rings — we still have the right to do Lord of the Rings movies. You focus on the big movies, the tentpoles that people are going to leave home, leave early from dinner to see.
It should be noted that the WBD CEO is slightly off the mark with the time frame regarding the absence of Superman and Harry Potter movies. The last solo Superman movie was Man of Steel in 2013, which was 9 years ago. Meanwhile, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released in 2011, 11 years ago.
With that said, it is clear the current head honcho of Warner Bros. Discovery wants to maximize their biggest franchise IPs by developing new theatrical blockbuster movies.
On a related note, Zaslav took the opportunity to slam the previous WarnerMedia management that pushed for direct-to-streaming movies that, ultimately, proved to be costly:
We learned what doesn’t work. And this is what doesn’t work for us based on everything that we’ve seen: direct-to-streaming movies. So spending a billion dollars or collapsing a motion picture window into a streaming service. The movies that we launch in theater do significantly better, and launching a 2-hour, 40-minute movie direct to streaming has done nothing for HBO Max in terms of viewership, retention or love of the service.
Earlier this year, big projects such as the $90 million Batgirl exclusive for HBO Max were cancelled. The DCEU film for the streaming service starring Leslie Grace, Brendan Fraser, Michael Keaton, and J.K. Simmons was relegated to a tax write-off and will never be released. But that was only the first on the chopping block, as other projects such as the Wonder Twins and the Constantine reboot under J.J. Abrams have also been effectively axed.
Black Adam, starring and produced by Dwayne Johnson, may have informally ushered this new era for the DC properties. Plus, James Gunn and Peter Safran will now be steering the new direction of the rechristened DC Universe, with a Man of Steel sequel starring the returning Henry Cavill being primed. Rumors have even circulated that Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan may be involved in this new Superman project.
Meanwhile, Zaslav has expressed his interest in discussing a new Harry Potter film with author J.K. Rowling. However, this does put into question Rowling's shaky relationship with Daniel Radcliffe and other Harry Potter alumnus. In addition, where would this leave the other spinoff films set in the Wizarding World such as The Fantastic Beasts films? And as far as The Lord of the Rings, Zaslav is likely referring to live action films, as there is still the upcoming War of the Rohirrim, which is an animated movie currently scheduled for a 2024 release date.
For now, fans can catch a glimpse of the new DC Universe in Black Adam, now showing in theaters worldwide.