Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav recently reiterated his plan to have the company focus on its big franchises such as Harry Potter, DC, and The Lord of the Rings.
According to TheWrap, Zaslav appeared at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia and Technology Conference where he declared, “One of the other real strengths of Warner Bros. is we talk about the great IP that Warner Bros. owns.”
While he notes they have strong franchises, he went on to explain the company has failed to properly use them, “But, for us, the challenge is that our content, our great IP — Harry Potter, DC, Lord of the Rings — that content has been underused.”
Specifically, Zaslav referenced they have let Superman rot, not giving the character his own film since Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
He also noted this is the case with Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, “We haven’t done anything with Harry Potter for more than a decade. We haven’t done anything with Lord of the Rings.”
While Zaslav stated the franchises have been underused, he did make it clear he doesn’t want to overuse them either, “We’ve got to be careful not to overuse the content.”
Nevertheless, he asserted, “We think there’s a lot of shareholder value in attaching a 10-year DC — a real plan around DC, bringing ‘Harry Potter’ back to HBO for 10 consecutive years, doing multiple movies of ‘Lord of the Rings,
He highlighted this by noting that without these franchises the company’s performance is “relatively flat.”
However, he added, “When you put those franchises in, it’s the best performing studio in the world. We need to deploy our best capital, and we need to do it with the best creative people in the world.”
This strategy should not surprise anyone, it’s one Zaslav has repeatedly talked about. In November 2022during the company’s 2022 Q3 earnings call he fielded a question from Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall and laid out his strategy for focusing on the company’s big franchises.
He said, “One, 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. One of — the DC movies and the Harry Potter movies provided a lot of the profits of Warner Bros. Motion Pictures over the last 25 years. So focused on the — one of the big advantages that we have, 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.”
Zaslav later added, “And so when you have a franchise movie, you can often make 2 to 3x the amount of money you make in the U.S. because you get a slot. And a focus on the big movies that are loved, that are tentpole, that people are going to leave home, leave early from dinner to go to see and we have a lot of them, Batman, Superman, Aquaman, if we can do something with J.K. 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.”
Not only has Zaslav been discussing this plan, he has taken steps to make it a reality. The company announced a new Harry Potter scripted television series that will adapt J.K. Rowling’s original books back in April.
A press release declared, “The series will be a faithful adaptation of the beloved “Harry Potter” book series by author and executive producer, J.K. Rowling.”
It added, “The stories from each of Rowling’s Harry Potter books will become a decade-long series produced with the same epic craft, love and care this global franchise is known for.”
Your Hogwarts letter is here.
— Max (@StreamOnMax) April 12, 2023
New movies in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings were also announced. In February, Zaslav announced, “Today, I’m thrilled to announce that Mike [de Luca] and Pam [Abdy] signed a deal to make multiple Lord of the Rings movies. Lord of the Rings is one of the most iconic storytelling franchises of all time. And we’re so excited.”
Following his announcement, De Luca and Abdy issued a statement to Variety hinting that the films would like tell stories outside of the main The Lord of the Rings novels. They stated that New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson “took an unprecedented leap of faith to realize the incredible stories, characters and world of The Lord of the Rings on the big screen … but for all the scope and detail lovingly packed into the two trilogies, the vast, complex and dazzling universe dreamed up by J.R.R. Tolkien remains largely unexplored.”
Lee Guinchard, CEO of Freemode, the company that holds the rights to The Lord of the Rings also stated, “Following our recent acquisition of Middle-earth Enterprises, we’re thrilled to embark on this new collaborative journey with New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures, bringing the incomparable world of J.R.R. Tolkien back to the big screen in new and exciting ways.”
He added, “We understand how cherished these works are and working together with our partners at New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures, we plan to honor the past, look to the future, and adhere to the strongest level of quality and production values.”
As for DC, James Gunn announced his plans to launch the DC Universe with Superman: Legacy back at the end of January.
First, the DC Studios CEO shared his vision for the DCU, “It’s one of our jobs, mine and Peter’s, to come in and make sure the DCU is connected in film, television, gaming, and animation. That the characters are consistent, played by the same actors and it works within one story.”
Gunn continued, “And if something is outside of that like Matt Reeves’ Batman, or Todd Phillips’ Joker, or Teen Titans GO! that it is clearly labeled as DC Elseworlds, outside of the mainstream DCU continuity.”
He would later reveal the first chapter for his DCU vision is called Gods and Monsters and it begins with Superman: Legacy.
The chapter also includes a Green Lantern TV series, a movie based on the Wildstorm characters The Authority, an Amazonian prequel series titled Paradise Lost, a Batman and Damian Wayne film titled The Brave and the Bold, a Booster Gold TV series, a Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow film, and ends with a Swamp Thing movie.
What do you make of Zaslav’s plan to embrace these big franchise properties?