KROLL OF THE DICE: A HOUSE FALLS AT WARNERS

from the January 9, 2018 edition of The Ankler

For over a year now, The Ankler (and nowhere else) has been reporting on the Game of Thrones in progress on the historic Warner Bros lot.  As the Ankler has long noted, the studio has  been locked in a frozen staredown scrum between House Tsujihara, House Kroll and House Emmerich, each pushing at each other with all their might, jockeying for advantage by the inch, while the frozen corporate situation kept everyone locked together in a death hug.

Put less slightly less dramatically: you’ve had a bunch of factions trying to kill each other but no one could do anything until the Telephone People arrived.

Six months ago, it seemed that House Kroll had the advantage in that fight, as the Marketing President de tutti Presidents strode alongside Telephone honchos on premiere nights, and the Tsujihara regime seemed ever more lavishly adrift.

But the lynchpins of House Kroll began to give way.  Her favored representative within Telephone People HQ lost out in her power struggle to control entertainment,  winds that seemed on the bring of pushing House Tsujihara out onto the street subsided and his regime stabilized.

Around the Kroll regime, the grumblings of discontent, mismanagement and horrendous treatment of staff has never been less than a muffled roar, but as the year wore on it consistently grew. Stories about the use of company funds and employees for various personal missions are legendary and more than a few have been reported here, blindly or otherwise.

And as the Day of the Telephone People remained frozen in the Justice Department’s version of development hell, the winds seemed to shift daily.  Warners owned some brilliantly successful moments of the past year (Wonder Woman, It, Dunkirk)  as well as way more than its share of bellyflops (King Arthur, Geostorm, CHiPs).

But whichever way it went for each new release,  there were few happy hours at Warners. With a factionalized lot under non-existent leadership competing for position with the ever, just over the horizon Telephone People, each box office victory set off a credit-grabbing feeding frenzy for the spoils.

And every defeat became an opportunity for a new round of finger pointing.

And then finally the year crashed to a finale with the slow motion total systemic failure, studio-wide implosion of the Justice League release.

After this it was finally clear that you couldn’t just leave everyone sitting in place waiting for the Telephone People to sort things out. With that day pushed off indefinitely, the place needed to act like an actual studio with some at least pantomime of accountability.

Post-JL, things started shaking again. After a year where almost no big projects advanced at Big Warners, green lights started flashing.  DC was re-org’d.  And it started to feel like the detention pen was converting itself into an entertainment producing entity.

This past weekend saw the final disintegration of the one last thread keeping Kroll in place: the Dunkirk Oscar campaign. There was no way, it was thought, that the studio was going to take out the campaign manager leading their marquee director’s unstoppable march to victory mid-march.  Well, now that victorious part is on ice, and Chris Nolan is no doubt thrilled about the work of all who brought him to this point…that’s not a worry anymore.

And then there was the unkindest cut of all. Blair Rich has spent her entire career working for her beloved mentor, Sue Kroll. But somewhere in the madness of the last year, as she took on more and more responsibility of her own, building her own direct relationships with the other major Houses, becoming a plausible successor to the woman who had raised her up, Rich decided to make a move on the iron marketing throne and switched camps.

Well, now she’s got it.

Unfortunately, looking at the Warners slate for the year ahead her battle is just beginning. Welcome to the throne Blair Rich. Don’t forget to keep some scapegoats handy.

This move is a long long way from the end of the game for Warners. There is still the question of the role of the Party Boy in Chief himself, as sooner or later, a new owner will appear, whether the Telephone People or the Cable Wire people or IP Bob Himself. And whomever that owner is is going to have a lot to go from the Tsujihara era.

So who survives that shake-up?   And what lingers for the Toby era as, mortal foe vanquished, he now looks to the question of: how do you keep a studio alive in these crazy times.

But let’s not grieve too much for our fallen double President. In the grand tradition of Hollywood executivedom, getting thrown out of a job doesn’t mean you have to look to cut back expenses around the house, maybe start shopping at Ralph’s instead of Whole Foods and start looking for excuses to rekindle your friendship with friends you cut off ages ago.

No no no. Hollywood is not heartless. To its top executives. Sue Kroll, you’re leaving Marketing and Distribution, but let’s see what you’ve won…It’s a brand new housekeeping deal! Including, being written in as a producer on Star is Born, a film that’s already been shot!  Unheard of for a marketing exec to be made a full-fledged endowed producer you say?  Well that’s just what this moment of out of the box thinking is all about.  Finding new ways for friends to help friends, while Hollywood burns.

 

ALSO IN TODAY’S EDITION!

  • TIME’S UP SEIZES THE MOMENT!
  • THE GEESE THAT LAID THE GOLDEN GLOBE!
  • WHERE’S BRETT?

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