Warner Bros. CEO Barry Meyer and COO Alan Horn just inked a new two-year contract with the studio. The news itself isn’t surprising. Up until Watchmen, Warner Bros. was on a tear with The Dark Knight, Yes Man, Gran Torino, He’s Just Not That Into You and Friday the 13th.
But Nikki Finke thinks Time Warner boss Jeff Bewkes decided to give them a two-year deal, instead of a longer three- or five-year deal like Harry Sloan recently signed at MGM and Brad Grey locked down at Paramount, because of recent blunders:
[E]veryone in Hollywood was convinced that Warner Bros shrugged off Slumdog Millionaire because PC-obsessed Alan “didn’t get it”. (He felt the harrowing poverty of the Indian slum kids didn’t mesh with the uplifting payoff.) Instead, Robinov fell on his sword for the boss’ decision to hand off 50% of the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner to Fox Searchlight. (The official WB backstory is that Robinov had too much product after the integration of New Line and Picturehouse added to Warner Bros Pictures films and the last remaining Warner Independent titles. So he decided not to distribute Slumdog in a very full Q4. “The issue was not that Alan —or anybody else, for that matter —didn’t ‘get’ the movie. It’s that they couldn’t ‘schedule’ the movie,” one WB exec described to me.)…
Horn’s film division also was embarrassed by not nailing down the legal rights to Watchmen adequately. Mogul after mogul in Hollywood couldn’t understand how Warner Bros could even have started filming the graphic novel with 20th Century Fox still laying claim to the pic…
But Horn’s biggest failure has been to leave the most valuable DC Comics characters in movie development limbo. Of Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League, only Batman has an ongoing live action franchise. And now that director Chris Nolan is working on back-to-back pics, who knows when the threequel will get a start date…
We’ll give Nikki the Watchmen thing—Warner Bros. should have made sure it had the rights to that before filming started—but Slumdog Millionaire is seriously intense and we didn’t see the Oscar potential either, so we don’t blame Horn for not getting it. Plus, the studio ended up with half of the $272M+ film, made for just $15 million.
And, the studio had the highest market share in Hollywood last year (and still does so far this year). So, it’s no wonder Warner Bros. re-signed their own dynamic duo, and it wasn’t likely that they were going anywhere.
Two years, in this environment, is nothing to sneeze at. It gives Horn and Meyer enough time to reboot the Superman franchise, which the studio is rumoured to be working on, and get Nolan locked down for a third Batman film. Then they can sign a big, multi-year deal.
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