A new era begins at Warner Bros., returning to its entertainment roots


“Success is about creative talent, in front of and behind the screen, and fighting and fighting to create a culture that supports that creative vision,” Mr. Zaslav said when announcing the takeover. control. For much of the past year, he’s raved about the studio’s rich heritage, repeatedly paying homage to Jack, Harry, Sam and Albert Warner, “the brothers who started it all.”

On Friday, Mr. Zaslav spoke of his aspirations to “dream big and dream bold” in an email sent to his new hires. “Hallelujah,” a Warner Bros. official said. in a text message afterwards. Another studio executive, speaking by phone, said she was going on a “wild” shopping spree to celebrate, adding, “Hollywood is back, baby.”

Others weren’t so sure. Mr. Zaslav qualifies as an entertainment insider, having run Discovery, a cable TV giant, for 15 years and working at NBCUniversal before that. But he has little cinematic experience. The merger also comes with a jaw-dropping debt – some $55 billion – that will need to be repaid, even as content costs rise. Mr. Zaslav will have to make tough decisions about how to allocate resources. How much money should be spent on film production and marketing? To what extent should the studio make films for exclusive theatrical release? Should there be even more focus on supplying movies to HBO Max, the company’s streaming service?

Under Ms. Sarnoff, Warner Bros. nearly halved its annual theatrical output and built a direct-to-streaming assembly line. “The good old days are gone forever,” a Warner-affiliated film producer said on Friday.

Hollywood as a whole finds itself in a similar state of mind: optimistic about the future of cinema one minute, pessimistic the next. There is evidence that theaters are finally recovering from the pandemic. Over the weekend, PG-rated “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” grossed $71 million in North America, the biggest opening total for a Paramount film since 2014, while “The Batman” (Warner Bros.) added $6.5 million in tickets. sales, for a national blockbuster total of $359 million since its arrival on March 4.

At the same time, one of Hollywood’s most bankable directors, Michael Bay, spat over the weekend. His crime thriller “Ambulance” (Universal) arrived at just $8.7 million in ticket sales. In another disappointment, “Morbius” (Sony) slumped in its second weekend, raking in $10.2 million in the US and Canada, a drop of 74%.

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