The old Hollywood game of rearranging executive chairs continued on Wednesday, with a pair of former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executives moving to Warner Bros., where they will become co-chairmen of a pandemic-weary film division.
Pamela Abdy and Michael De Luca will also each hold the division’s chief executive title, according to Warner Bros. Discovery, the conglomerate formed in April by the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc. Ms. Abdy and Mr. De Luca left MGM in April after Amazon’s purchase of that studio. While at MGM, they directed movies like “No Time to Die,” “House of Gucci,” and “Licorice Pizza.”
“Michael and Pam are extremely talented creative leaders with a proven track record of success,” said David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, in a statement.
They will succeed Toby Emmerich, who became Warner’s top film executive in 2017. Mr. Emmerich, an affable executive who presided over hits like “It Chapter Two,” “Joker” and “The Batman” and flops like “The Suicide Squad” and “The Matrix Resurrections” is retiring to become a Warner-financed producer on a five-year deal. He leaves behind a dodgy slate of original films, including Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” which cost an estimated $100 million to make, and Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” a big-budget comic fantasy. Sequels in the Warner pipeline include “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”.
All of the traditional movie studios were hit by the pandemic, but Warners had a particularly tough time, as corporate overlords at Emmerich were seen to mismanage the decision to release movies simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. The move caused some talented partners and their agents to revolt. Mr. Emmerich and his longtime lieutenant, Carolyn Blackwood, stayed behind trying to clean up a mess.
Emmerich rose to studio leadership through New Line, a division of Warner focused on low- to mid-budget releases. He was named New Line’s president of production in 2001 when the person holding that position, Mr. De Luca, was fired after a series of box office disappointments.
For various reasons (managing prickly filmmakers requires unique skills, taking a chance on an experienced hand is less risky than taking a chance on a next-generation executive), Hollywood likes to retrain its studio bosses. James N. Gianopulos, sidelined at 20th Century Fox in 2016, returned to power at Paramount the following year. Fox ousted Thomas E. Rothman in 2012; he went on to run Sony Pictures.
The reorganization of Warner Bros., already reported by The Hollywood Reporter, is not over. For now, Ms. Abdy and Mr. De Luca will oversee all of the studio’s film operations. But they will eventually lose the management of superhero movies and animation. As part of a strategy that has worked well for competitors like Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery plans to create “verticals” for those specialties, each with its own manager who reports to Zaslav.