Toby Emmerich Out at Warners, Michael De Luca In: Analyis

Managing Directors Michael De Luca and Toby Emmerich share the same New Line Cinema DNA, but the new boss has a distinct advantage.

For all the changes that rock Hollywood each week, its operations remain resolute in their conservatism: go with who you know. In 2001, a 35-year-old Toby Emmerich took the reins as production president of New Line Cinema after his mentor, Michael De Luca, left. In 2008, Emmerich became President and CEO of New Line, reporting to Warner Bros.’ then President Alan Horn.

Cut to 2022 and David “Zaz” Zaslav is responsible for building the Warner Discovery empire. Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group, is out; He is replaced by De Luca, 59, and his lieutenant, Pamela Abdy, 48, who recently lost their job as head of MGM Motion Picture Group after it was acquired by Amazon. And Horn is preparing his own comeback as an advisor to Zaslav.

Emmerich and DeLuca have more in common than most studio pawns. Both were forged in the rowdy New Line ethos, and they’re cinephiles who take risky bets to work with top talent. Case in point: both have just debuted major films at Cannes.

At the world premiere of George Miller’s $65 million fantasy romance Three Thousand Years of Longing in Cannes, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, Amazon film exec Julie Rappaport told IndieWire that plays for the future of MGM/UA of are of crucial importance. In Cannes, Emmerich told me the same thing about Warners’ theatrical strategy.

That’s because Zaslav campaigned for the power to brand a title in theaters. Zaz himself attended the lavish world premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s $150 million musical biopic Elvis in Cannes; Rising star Austin Butler hung out with Emmerich at Beach Stephanie’s afterparty. As a commercial box-office hit, Elvis arguably has more to offer than Three Thousand Years of Longing, but it also costs twice as much. Cost control will be a priority at Warner Discovery, and that’s something De Luca knows how to do. Zas would love more movies like Dog, which grossed $75 million worldwide on a budget of $15 million.

Tom Hanks, from left, Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler pose for photographers at the farewell to the premiere of the film'Elvis' at the 75th International Film Festival, Cannes, south of France, Wednesday May 25, 2022. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision /AP)

Tom Hanks, Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler pose for photographers after the premiere of “Elvis” in Cannes

Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

When Zas announced Emmerich’s departure on Wednesday, Zas heaped praise on him in a staff memo, saying he was happy to accommodate Emmerich’s request for a production deal; He will help with the transition through the summer. Emmerich had a bumpy ride early on at Warners as the studio was acquired by AT&T. Telephone company CEO John Stankey appointed Jason Kilar chairman of Warner Media. Emmerich tangled with self-proclaimed theater savior and Warner loyalist Christopher Nolan over the theatrical release of Tenet even before Kilar announced that all 17 2021 Warners titles would be released on HBO Max day by day. That prompted the filmmaker to leave the studio and set up his Robert J. Oppenheimer biopic at Universal.

Trusting a dynamic and diverse release slate, Emmerich banked on risqué films that wowed, from Venice and the Oscar-winning Joker to Crazy Rich Asians and A Star Is Born. (“Joker” director Todd Phillips is also in talks to seek advice from Warner Discovery.) At DC, Matt Reeves steered “The Batman” to worldwide sales of $769 million; New Lines also delivered the $62.5 million budgeted Shazam! ($366 million worldwide). On the other hand Patti Jenkins made $166 million worldwide with “Wonder Woman 1984” $200 million. The elaborate but non-commercial games of chance included the classic literary adaptations “The Stieglitz” and “Motherless Brooklyn”.

For his part, De Luca has an outstanding track record and a reputation for following his gut, from New Line to DreamWorks to production deals at Universal (the “Fifty Shades” franchise) and Sony (“Gran Torino”) ), where he briefly ran the production. His hits include New Line’s “Austin Powers” and “Rush Hour” series, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia,” while his productions “The Social Network” and “Moneyball” won best for two years in a row Film series, followed three years later by Paul Greengrass’s “Captain Phillips”.

Of course he has his missing ones, including Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers and Success d’estime “Licorice Pizza” ($32.3 million worldwide). Also under his watch were the James Bond hit No Time To Die (although it was produced by Eon) and House of Gucci, which grossed $148 million worldwide from a budget of $65 million .


Toby Emmerich, Candice McDonagh, Michael De Luca, Mary Parent, Lynn Harris and Donna Langley at the 2022 AFI Awards

Anne Thompson

From Emmerich, De Luca will inherit George Miller’s Fury Road sequel, Furiosa, which began production today; a leaderless DC, albeit one with a Reeves and Robert Pattinson sequel to The Batman in the works; Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, starring Harry Styles and Florence Pugh; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory remake Wonka, starring Timothee Chalamet; and of course New Line, which is now a production label.

When Emmerich took over New Line at Warners, it was a strong candidate for disappearance; eventually the studio killed specialty labels Fine Line, Warner Independent Pictures, and Picturehouse. Instead, it thrived on a steady stream of smart, low-budget hits.

In 2017, it grossed $700 million worldwide with the Stephen King blockbuster It, directed by Argentine import Andy Muschietti (“Mama”). New Line has delivered robust franchises (including Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films) and a diverse range of action films starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (“Rampage”, “Central Intelligence”, “San Andreas”), comedies (” We Are the Millers, Game Night), and strong genre material (James Wan’s The Conjuring has grossed $1.9 billion worldwide across seven titles, including Annabelle and The Nun spinoffs).

Long before Screen Gems and Blumhouse got involved, De Luca and Emmerich knew how to spot talent and create intelligent originals. De Luca and Emmerich share a lot of DNA, but one aspect Emmerich never matched: He hasn’t been in the Warners and De Luca herd for more than two decades.

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Lindsay Lowe

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