Warner Bros is one of the world's most celebrated entertainment brands, encompassing a wide range of operations from movie and TV production to character licensing, videogames and even publishing (with DC Comics and MAD magazine). It is the core content creation business within WarnerMedia, currently a unit of AT&T (but due to be merged into a new joint venture with Discovery in 2022). In recent years it has been one of the world's most consistently successful movie studios as a result of such mega-franchises as Harry Potter, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit and Batman/The Dark Knight. It was the #1 studio by US box office for three consecutive years between 2008 and 2010. It reclaimed that position once again for 2013 and returned to the top spot for 2017 as a result of the huge success of 'Wonder Woman' and sleeper hit 'It'. Its most important franchise by far is the DC Comics universe, encompassing Batman, Superman and various other superheroes, though these have generally lagged some way behind Disney's Marvel in terms of consistent commercial success, partly as a result of a generally darker and more dystopian style. Yet the majority of Warner's biggest global hits in recent years have been from the DC stable: 'Aquaman' in 2018 at almost $1.2bn in worldwide takings, while 'Joker' reaped almost $1.1bn in 2019. 'It Chapter Two' was a huge hit in the US, slightly less so elsewhere, but generated total box office of $473m. The industry at large was badly damaged by the Covid pandemic, curtailing theatrical releases. Warner's mega-budget 'Tenet' was one of the biggest casualties, grossing a disappointing $364m worldwide. DC releases 'Birds of Prey' and 'Wonder Woman 1984' took $202m and $165m respectively. With cinemas only still recovering from the widespread shutdowns, AT&T announced plans to release all 2021 movies simultaneously on its newly launched HBO Max streaming service. The group's equally substantial television production division was responsible for such global successes as 'Friends', 'The West Wing' and 'ER' as well as more recent hits including 'The Big Bang Theory' and 'Two & A Half Men'. Warner Bros also manages a huge library of film and television product, comprising some 8,600 movies and 5,000 TV shows. Among other assets, the library includes most of the classic movies made by MGM before 1950, as well as the extensive Warner back-catalogue. Warner is the world's second-biggest character licensing business after Disney. Its licensed products have an estimated retail value of around $6bn annually. Main brands include the Looney Tunes portfolio, Harry Potter (and now Fantastic Beasts), Batman, Superman and Scooby-Doo. In 2018, Warner Bros became a unit of AT&T, following approval of the latter's proposed acquisition of Time Warner following a court challenge from the Department of Justice. Warner Bros had divisional revenues of $12.2bn in 2020 and operating income of $2.1bn. Movies (or rather "theatrical product") had revenues of $4.4bn, TV product $6.2bn and games & other $1.6bn. Ann Sarnoff was appointed as CEO of Warner Bros in 2019 after the dismissal of Kevin Tsujihara following a personal scandal.
Capsule checked 23rd August 2021
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Historical profile information for Warner Bros
Adbrands Daily Update 4th Dec 2020: The age of cinema could be coming to an end. Warner Bros has announced plans to release all 17 of its 2021 movies simultaneously in US cinemas and on its HBO Max streaming service. That will include 'Dune' and a new installment of 'The Matrix'. 'Wonder Woman 1984' will be the first such release, at Christmas. Major cinema chains in the US have expressed dismay over the decision. However, Warner says the movies will be on HBO Max for only their first month of release in the US, and will then revert to cinemas. International releases will not be affected - HBO Max is currently only available in the US. Earlier this year, during the initial Covid wave, Universal Pictures was the first studio to test movie premieres on streaming services with Trolls 2 and others; Disney followed suit with Mulan; but Warner is the first to commit wholly to streaming premieres. That move will also serve to boost take-up of HBO Max, which has so far failed to match the popularity of Disney+.
Adbrands Daily Update 16th Mar 2020: The repercussions from Coronavirus aren't just affecting retail outlets and public places. Netflix was one of several entertainment companies to halt TV production. All Netflix shows being filmed in the US and Canada are being suspended for at least two weeks, affecting dozens of different productions. Warner Bros TV Studios similarly is halting production on some 70 series, while NBC has hit pause on at least 35 shows. Movie theatres are also expected to close their doors, and several big releases have already rescheduled for later in the year.
Adbrands Daily Update 25th Jun 2019: After a three month search, Warner Bros named Ann Sarnoff as CEO to replace Kevin Tsujihara. She is the first woman ever to lead the company, and will report to WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey. Sarnoff joins the group from her role as president of BBC Studios Americas, and previously hedl senior roles at Nickelodeon, the Women's NBA and the Wall Street Journal.
Adbrands Daily Update 19th Mar 2019: Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara has resigned following revelations of an extra-marital affair six years ago in which he apparently promised to help his lover, an aspiring actress, to get parts in Warner movies. The story was published earlier this year by trade paper the Hollywood Reporter. The actress issued a statement saying she played no part in the leaking of the story. Tsujihara was the last of the old guard of divisional heads from Time Warner to remain in place under AT&T's ownership. He was to have taken on additional duties following a recent restructure, including oversight of cable channels including Cartoon network and TCM. For the time being, Tsujihara's role will be split between three managers: movie studios head Toby Emmerich, television chief Peter Roth and CFO Kimberly Williams.
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Jan 2018: Walt Disney was undeniable champion of the US (and global) movie box office in 2017. On release for just the last two weeks of the year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi roared to the top of the US charts with ticket sales of almost $540m, overtaking Disney's live action Beauty & The Beast. That crowdpleaser retained its title as the global #1 with box office of $1.26bn. (Last Jedi has yet to open in several global markets, including China). Another Disney release, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, was the #4 movie in the US behind Warner Bros' Wonder Woman, one of the year's most unexpected box office sensations. Globally, though, Disney shared the top honours with Universal Pictures, whose Fate of the Furious and Despicable Me 3 were the #2 and #4 movies. In terms of combined US box office takings, Disney held the #1 spot with $2.4bn, ahead of Warner with $2.0bn. (Without the contribution from Last Jedi, Disney and Warner would have been on level pegging). Universal ranked #3 at $1.5bn while 20th Century Fox had $1.3bn. Sony, Lions Gate and Paramount held the next three places. However, the biggest contributing factor in the numbers was the record highs reached by ticket prices. Total US takings were still down a little over 2% from 2016 at $11.17bn, while total admissions in volume terms are thought to have hit a 27-year low. The downturn in the US was offset by surging attendance (and ticket prices) in international markets. Total cinema takings are expected to top $40bn for the first time in history, helped by a 20%-plus surge in China to $8.6bn.
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