Warner Bros. Studios evolves with new CEO

By Kyle O’Donnell

Caption goes here. (Lindsay Ivins)

The long history of Warner Bros. Studios is taking a turn as the company introduces its fifth CEO and makes other changes. (Lindsay Ivins)

Yakko, Wakko and Dot may not be running amok on the studio lot, but Warner Brothers Studios is still a hectic place.

One of the most recognizable studios in Hollywood, Warner Brothers is undergoing significant changes in several areas.

The studio, which marked is 90th birthday on April 4, recently named the fifth CEO in its history. The stability of the company’s leaderships is responsible for its success, said Sue Fleishman, executive vice president of worldwide communications at Warner Brothers.

Kevin Tsujihara took over as CEO on March 1. Former CEO Barry Meyer will remain chairman until the end of the year and will mentor Tsujihara throughout the year, Fleishman said.

An expansion area for Warner Brothers is new markets outside of the United States, Fleishman said.

“That’s where the future lies,” she said.

But with new markets comes a new challenge for an entertainment company dependent on copyrighted material such as television shows, movies and music. International markets where Warner Brothers wants to expand have significant piracy issues, Fleishman said.

She noted that the future success of the company is dependent not only on the addition of new markets and new revenue streams but the subtraction of poor-performing entities.

Warner Brothers will now be a smaller, more focused company with the shedding of AOL and its magazines from Time Warner, Fleishman said.

Fleishman also talked about her role as chief communicator and said the website Deadline has changed the way that the entertainment industry is covered.

As a result of entertainment websites, Warner Brothers became a leaky organization, Fleishman said, with information released at sometimes inappropriate times. That behavior has been more controlled recently, she said.

 (Chad Garland)

Warner Bros. Studios, now 90-years-old, aims to become smaller and more focused. (Chad Garland)

“We try to be as forthcoming as we can,” Fleishman said. “We need the press.”

However, she admitted that the company would give only a ballpark estimate on movie budgets, not line-by-line financial details.

Fleishman described the studio’s latest film, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” as the sixth consecutive financial flop for Warner Brothers. She knew about the poor performance before the movie opened at the box office and anticipated questions from the media.

A significant business venture for Warner Brothers is its construction and design team.

Jim McGrory, manager of construction services, described his job as like “being in Santa’s workshop.”

With an onsite construction mill spanning 200,000 square feet, Warner Brothers design team works on both internal and external projects, said McGrory, who is a classically trained architect.

In this business, some of the work of the construction and design teams is only used for a brief period despite the intense labor. For example, the construction team spent four months building and two months deconstructing a set for the film “The Hangover 2,” McGrory said. The production team used the set for only a few days of shooting.

Warner Brothers Studios also contracts construction and design services for projects at other companies such as Guess Jeans and Bass Pro Shops, McGrory said. The department also created a canister resembling the chamber of a revolver for Red Bull, which was used for sales presentations.

When it comes to in-house TV production, the company often relies on its fans to provide immediate feedback, said general clerk Mike Shulman. The public can receive free tickets to watch a sitcom filming with the idea that they will provide instant feedback on the quality of the television show.

Bob Beresh, manager of feature sales, and Bill Angarola, vice president of post production services, described sound editing as a business within itself.

From a hiring standpoint, the sound department tends to look for candidates with a music background, Beresh said.

“You can think in a sound world,” he said of those with music skills.

The sound department can be working on up to 300 projects at a time, Angarola said.