Despite a solid overall year at the box office thanks to Wonder Woman, Dunkirk and It, Warner Bros. chairman/CEO Kevin Tsujihara has decided to reorganize the studio’s executive ranks. The result? Sue Kroll has left her position as president of worldwide marketing and distribution to eventually become a producer on the lot, starting April 1.
After being widely rumored to take over the studio’s marketing operations, it’s now official — Blair Rich has been named president of worldwide marketing, (encompassing theatrical and home entertainment), and Ron Sanders will serve as president of worldwide distribution while retaining his role as president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Both promotions are effective immediately
Meanwhile, Toby Emmerich is being promoted to chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, and under the new management structure, all three divisions — production, marketing and distribution — will report directly to him. This gives Emmerich even more power on the lot — something he’s earned following his many years running New Line.
“I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity to help continue Warner Bros. Pictures’ legacy of creativity, innovation and excellence. We will remain focused on being the first choice for the world’s best filmmakers, whether they’re making their first film or their 34th,” said Emmerich.
“All of our businesses, including film and home entertainment, continue to rapidly evolve based on consumer tastes and technology, and we need to constantly adapt our operations to stay ahead of these changes, while preserving our creative excellence,” added Tsujihara.
It will now fall on Emmerich, Rich and new DC Films president Walter Hamada to restore luster to the DC brand following the critical and commercial failure of Justice League. James Wan’s Aquaman and David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! both sound promising, but so did Suicide Squad.
Circling back to Kroll, she will serve as a special advisor to Tsujihara during the transition, effectively continuing to oversee the awards campaigns for Dunkirk and Wonder Woman. She’ll also remain involved with the upcoming release of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One on March 30. Two days later, Kroll will begin her career as a producer, and her first two films will be Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born starring Lady Gaga (excuse me, Stefani Germanotta) and Edward Norton’s adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn, which has long been a passion project for the actor.
“I’ve had a wonderful career here at Warner Bros. For the past two decades, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most interesting and illustrious filmmakers of our age, and I’ve helped bring their incredible work to many millions of people around the world. Along the way, I have built and worked with a fantastic team of people here at the studio,” said Kroll. “Together, we’ve broken boundaries and redefined what’s possible, and I’m proud of all that we’ve achieved. Blair Rich, who’s a terrific executive, will lead the marketing team into the next phase of our industry’s evolution, and I know she’ll be great.”
Speaking of Rich, she led the marketing efforts on It and helped direct the campaigns for recent Warners hits such as Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, The LEGO Batman Movie and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
“I’ve known and worked with Blair for years—she’s a fantastic marketer, highly respected and as creative as she is strategic,” said Emmerich.
Kroll will be in high-demand throughout Hollywood, given her experience marketing and releasing tentpoles, not to mention her relationships with A-list filmmakers. While there have been whispers that she might replace Megan Colligan at Paramount, or take a similar job working at Apple or Netflix, Kroll opted for an exclusive three-year pact at the only studio she has known for the past two-plus decades. Not only will her new production company be housed in a bungalow formerly occupied by Jack Warner, but her golden parachute is expected to include more Warner Bros. titles — ones the studio knows will get made, too.
“Sue holds all the cards to be a successful producer — she’s smart, strategic, creative and has many meaningful relationships with great filmmakers. I have deep respect for her taste, talent and passion for film, and I look forward to our continued friendship and collaboration in her new role as a producer on the lot,” said Emmerich.
“I’d like to thank Sue for her incredible contributions to our film operations over the last twenty-plus years. With her at the helm of our film marketing and distribution efforts, the studio has consistently been recognized as the industry’s gold standard, a tastemaker and the place where top filmmakers want to work,” added Tsujihara. “I’m really excited to be working with her in this new role.”
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief