June 10, 2023
James Gunn, Peter Safran have named the new directors of Warner Bros.'  DC Studios

James Gunn, Peter Safran have named the new directors of Warner Bros.’ DC Studios

James Gunn and Peter Safran will be the next co-heads of Discovery of Warner Bros.DC Comics’ film and television unit, the company announced on Tuesday. Their appointments will take effect on November 1.

The news comes at a tumultuous time for the new Warner Bros. Discovery. CEO David Zaslav tried to remake WarnerMedia after merging it with Discovery in April, including through layoffs and eliminating content from the HBO Max streaming service.

Zaslav was looking for someone to stabilize the ship at DC’s film division, home to superheroes such as Wonder Woman and Superman, while Warner Bros. Discovery aims to capture the kind of consistent success enjoyed by disneyfrom Marvel Studios.

Both Gunn and Safran have experience with the superhero genre and have brought heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Universe to the big and small screens, including “Guardians of the Galaxy,” The Suicide Squad” and “Peacemaker”.

“DC are among the most entertaining, powerful and iconic characters in the world and I’m thrilled to have the singular and complementary talents of James and Peter join our world-class team and oversee the creative direction of the legendary DC Universe,” said Zaslav. said Tuesday in a statement.

The duo will be responsible for the franchise’s creative direction for film, television and animation.

“We are honored to be stewards of these DC characters we have loved since we were kids,” Gunn and Safran said in a joint statement. “We look forward to collaborating with the world’s most talented writers, directors and actors to create an integrated, multi-layered universe that still allows for the individual expression of the artists involved.”

Warner Bros. Discovery has been looking for a new head for this studio for months, but hasn’t had much luck getting an executive to take the job.

“The Lego Movie” producer Dan Lin was at one point considered for the job, but ultimately contract talks ran into complications due to Lin’s ownership of the production company Rideback and the way Warner Bros. Discovery would compensate him for this.

Another possible candidate was Emma Watts, a former film executive at 20th Century Studios and Paramount, who was reportedly approached to take over last April but did not take the job.

Gunn and Safran take the helm at a time when the DCEU is on shaky ground. While the franchise has a fiery fanbase, the films’ critical reception has been poor, and the overall direction of its movies and TV shows has been called into question.

“Black Adam” currently holds a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 227 reviews, the lowest rating for a DCEU film since 2017’s “Justice League,” which also stands at 39%.

Over the weekend, the film grossed $67 million at the domestic box office, star Dwayne Johnson’s best debut as a leading man. The opening is a strong start for the film, on par with other films featuring lesser-known heroes set in the DC Extended Universe, but significantly below those of the rival Marvel Cinematic Universe. The last time an MCU movie opened below $70 million was in 2015 with the release of “Ant-Man.”

Warner Bros. recently moved its ‘Aquaman’ sequel, which was due for release in March 2023, to December 2023. ‘The Flash’, also slated for release next year, is facing controversy due to its star, Ezra Miller faces several allegations, including child grooming. Zaslav removed the nearly complete “Batgirl” from its HBO Max release slate, allowing the company to take a tax deduction.

Zaslav recently discussed his desire to build a “much stronger, sustainable, long-term sustainable growth business out of DC” that is focused on quality. The exec is considering a DC Cinematic Universe reset that would set in place a 10-year plan for the franchise.

Zaslav tapped Hollywood producer Alan Horn in July to play a consulting role to help the CEO navigate the film industry. Horn, a respected Disney executive and veteran, was with the Walt Disney Company when it began shaping its Marvel Cinematic Universe and reviving the Star Wars film franchise.

He also helped bring the “Hobbit” films to the big screen for Warner Bros., as well as the eight-film Harry Potter franchise and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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