Warner Bros. Discovery Investor Call Empahsizes Franchises

Warner Bros. is going to lean heavily into franchises for the foreseeable future. In a third-quarter investor call, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav told investors that he wants the studio to take advantage of the big IPs it has in its arsenal.

“We’re going to have a real focus on franchises… We haven’t had a ‘Superman’ movie in 13 years. We haven’t done a ‘Harry Potter’ movie in 15 years. The DC movies and the ‘Harry Potter’ movies provided a lot of the profits of Warner Bros. Motion Pictures over the last 25 years… ‘House of the Dragon’ is an example of that, ‘Game of Thrones,’ taking advantage of ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Lord of the Rings,’ we still have the right to do ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. What are the movies that have brands that are understood and loved everywhere in the world?

Outside the U.S., most in the aggregate, Europe, Latin America, Asia, have 40% of the theaters that we have here in the U.S. and there is local content. And so when you have a franchise movie, you can often make two to three times the amount of money that you make in the U.S… we have a lot of them. Batman, Superman, Aquaman, if we can do something with JK on ‘Harry Potter’ going forward, ‘Lord of the Rings,’ what are we doing with ‘Game of Thrones’? What are we doing with a lot of the big franchises that we have? We’re focused on franchises.”

The general idea of Warner Bros. Discovery focusing on franchises isn’t surprising, given how much care and attention Zaslav has been giving to DC since he took command. While other things have been going on, most of the news has been about how he’s restructuring the DC movies, throwing out what doesn’t – or probably won’t – work and bringing in things that will, like Henry Cavill as a more hopeful and aspirational Superman. His point about foreign box office makes sense, too; superhero movies tend to play around the world, and with Warner Bros. in a big financial hole, capitalizing on that is a no-brainer.

Some of the other properties he mentions are logical, too, at least in terms of kicking around ideas. I’m not sure how they can implement some of these, though. What other Lord of the Rings films can they make? They’ve done the trilogy and stretched The Hobbit into three movies. There’s a lot of apocryphal stuff, but that could bring to mind Rings of Power, which nobody likes and may be ruining the idea of expanding on the central story. Maybe the movies would be better, but is anyone going to give them a chance now? And with Rings of Power running for a guaranteed four more seasons, it’ll be a while if Zaslav decides to let it play out and fade from people’s memories. I guess screwing up WB’s ability to extend the film series is one small victory Jeff Bezos can claim.

I’m not sure what they’d do for Harry Potter, either. Based on Zaslav’s line about not having one in fifteen years, he sounds like he’s ignoring the Fantastic Beasts movies. Aside from the first one, they aren’t all that successful, and each one made less than the one before. Given Zaslav’s propensity to cut the fat, I don’t see more of these getting greenlit. I guess they could make The Cursed Child into a movie, but from what I’ve heard (meaning from what Blabs has told me), it’s not all that good, and many fans don’t consider it canon. But if they can get the original cast back – added to his emphasis on JK Rowling’s involvement – it’s almost a guaranteed hit regardless. To a generation, that would be like seeing the original Star Wars heroes back together again, and unlike Disney, Zaslav isn’t dumb enough to screw that up. And it would be immensely satisfying to watch Daniel Radcliffe twist himself into knots explaining why he agreed to work with Rowling again while sidestepping the barge full of money Warner Bros. sent him.

As has been the case since he took over, I’m fascinated to see where Zaslav takes Warner Bros. in the coming years, even when it comes to things that don’t interest me.

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