New Era Begins at Warner Bros., Back Toward Its Entertainment Roots

Mr. Zaslev said while announcing the takeover. Over the years, he has repeatedly rapped about the studio’s rich heritage, repeatedly paying tribute to Jack, Harry, Sam and Albert Warner, “the brothers who started it all.”

On Friday, Mr. Zaslev talked about his aspirations to see “big dreams and bold dreams” in emails sent to his new employees. “Hallelujah,” a Warner Bros. The manager then said in a text message. Another studio executive, speaking by phone, said she was going to the “wild” shopping spree to celebrate, adding, “Hollywood is back, baby.”

Others were not so sure. Mr. Zaslav qualifies as an insider of entertainment by running the cable television Behemoth Discovery for 15 years and previously worked at NBCUniversal. But he has less experience in film. The merger also comes with lucrative debt – about $ 55 billion – which will have to be paid, despite the increase in material costs. Mr. Zaslav will need to make difficult decisions about how to allocate resources. How much money should be spent on movie production and marketing? To what extent should studios make films for special releases in theaters? Should the company’s streaming service HBO Max focus more on supplying movies?

Under Ms. Sarnoff, Warner Bros. Reduced its annual theatrical output by about half and created a direct-to-streaming assembly line. “The good old days are gone forever,” a Warner-affiliated filmmaker said Friday.

Hollywood as a whole is in a similar state of mind: one minute optimistic about the future of movies, the next pessimistic. There is evidence that theaters are finally recovering from the epidemic. Over the weekend, PG-rated “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” grossed a whopping $ 71 million in North America, the biggest start to a Paramount movie since 2014, while “The Batman” (Warner Bros.) added $ 6.5 million to tickets. Sales, blockbuster local since March 4 for a total of $ 359 million.

At the same time, one of Hollywood’s most bankable directors, Michael Bay, swelled over the weekend. Its crime thriller “Ambulance” (Universal) ticket sales reached just $ 8.7 million. In another boomer, “Morbius” (Sony) crashed on its second weekend, raising $ 10.2 million in the United States and Canada, down 74 percent.

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