by Jarrad Saffren
A Brief History and Profile
Warner Bros Pictures is a major film studio that produces film, television, and music entertainment. Founded by the four Warner brothers, Albert, Harry, Sam, and Jack in 1918, Warner Bros Pictures has been a “Big Three” or “Big Six” American film studio since the development of the “major film studio” classification in the 1930s. Based on revenue and market share statistics from the 2011 fiscal year, Warner Bros Pictures is the most profitable entertainment subsidiary of the Time Warner conglomerate and the second most profitable major film studio behind only Paramount Pictures. It merges several divisions and brands including New Line Cinema, HBO Films, Castle Rock Entertainment, Warner Bros Animation, and DC Entertainment.
On the strength of a lucrative summer performance at the box office that included the seventh highest grossing film of all-time (“The Dark Knight Rises”), Warner Bros Pictures had its strongest financial quarter in a year in terms of net income. Including the cost of revenue and after taxes, Warner Bros raised its net income from $430 million at the end of the second quarter of 2012 in June to $838 million at the end of the third quarter in September (1). This is the highest total for the company since it netted $822 million in the third quarter of 2011.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros’ net income is expected to drop slightly at the end of the fourth quarter. At the box office, the fall and early winter season has been a mixed bag for Warner Bros based on its two most prominent releases. Ben Affleck’s “Argo” is a smash hit that has grossed over $111 million and counting, surpassing its $44 million budget with flying colors (2). “Cloud Atlas,” on the other hand, has been a resounding box office failure in spite of critical acclaim. The film has grossed just $25 million against an estimated $100 million budget (3).
This mixed bag is not alarming because the fall movie season is typically less lucrative than the summer and holiday seasons that bookend it. As one of the most prominent film studios on the planet, Warner Bros has also finalized a steady stream of high profile releases featuring A-list stars coming out this holiday season and throughout 2013.
On a long-term scale, Warner Bros has raised its total shareholder equity this quarter to $30.02 billion, its highest total since the third quarter of 2011 (4). More people are investing in Warner Bros because the company has finally started to market its vast intellectual property holdings via alternative media sources like Flixster, a company-owned online streaming service.
In a joint announcement on the last day of the month, Warner Bros Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures revealed that the final film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy adaptation of “The Hobbit” will be released worldwide on July 18, 2014. All three films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his team adapted into an award winning trilogy of its own from 2001 to 2003. The first installment in the new trilogy “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” kicks off the holiday movie season next Friday and could provide an end-of-quarter financial boost for the company. The second “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” will be released on December 13, 2013. (5)
In the first week of September, Jack Horner was named Executive Vice President, Theatrical Communications, Warner Bros Pictures Group. Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing, Warner Bros Pictures, created this new position. Horner will primarily handle corporate PR issues relating to the film division. He will work closely with the domestic and international publicity units of the film division as Warner Bros tries to expand its reach across multiple platforms and cultures. Horner most recently worked at News Corporation, where he was Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Communications. (6)
About a week after the Horner announcement, shooting began for “The Hangover Part III,” the third and final film in director Todd Phillips’ wildly popular comedy trilogy. The project is a team effort between Warner Bros Pictures and Legendary Pictures. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha are back to star as the beloved “Wolfpack” foursome of Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug. “The Hangover Part III” is scheduled for a worldwide release on May 24,2013. (7)
Always staying proactive, in addition to “The Hangover,” Warner Bros Pictures announced a slate of four new films set for release during 2013. “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” stars Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carey as dueling magicians on the Las Vegas strip. It comes out on May 15th. “The Conjuring” stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as paranormal investigators who are forced to take on the most horrifying case of their careers in a secluded farmhouse. It hits theaters on July 19th. “We’re the Millers” stars Jason Sudeikis as a small-time pot dealer forced to travel to great lengths to pay off a debt to his big-time supplier. It will premiere on August 9th. “Prisoners” stars Hugh Jackman as a desperate father who abducts the man he suspects is behind the kidnapping of his eight-year-old daughter. It is set for release on September 20th. (8)
Looking even further into the future, Warner Bros Pictures, Legendary Pictures, and Village Roadshow Pictures announced jointly that “All You Need is Kill,” a sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt and based on the book of the same name, will be released on March 14, 2014. The film is a futuristic, society-on-the-brink drama where an alien race is swiftly destroying the human race. Cruise and Blunt star as the military lieutenant and Special Forces warrior tasked with destroying the alien invaders and saving the world. (9)
Such a bright future would not be possible without Warner Bros’ landmark past. This January, Warner Bros Pictures will pop the corks on a yearlong celebration of its 90th anniversary. On the strength of the largest film library in the world–6,800 feature films including 22 Academy Award-winning Best Pictures–Warner Bros will be releasing seven new exclusive film collections to DVD and Blu-ray. 100 of the films will be on DVD, 50 on Blu-ray. Both will be the largest such collections of their formats in history to date. Several classics will also be released individually on Blu-ray for the first time including “The Jazz Singer” and “Driving Miss Daisy.” (10)
In addition to its innovative approach for bringing old classics onto newer formats, Warner Bros is also getting in on the newest media. In the last week of October, after announcing its anniversary celebration, Warner Bros revealed that it is teaming with Paramount Home Media Distribution to release more than 600 catalog titles from the Paramount film library via Flixster, the Warner Bros movie streaming and discovery service. Warner Bros will now have exclusive rights to Blu-ray and DVD distribution of those movies in the US and Canada, expanding the company’s massive reach into the pivotal Internet streaming sector. (11)
Finally, to conclude its busiest month of the third quarter and most progressive technological month of any quarter in recent memory, Warner Bros Home Entertainment agreed to a multiyear deal with Redbox, a DVD, Blu-ray, and video game distribution service owned by Coinstar, to bring Warner Bros titles to Redbox kiosks. All Warner Bros titles will be released to the kiosks just 28 days after their initial retail release dates. In addition, Redbox has agreed to promote Ultraviolet, Warner Bros innovative streaming service that would allow consumers to buy a title once and then access it anywhere on any device. (12)
Warner Bros picked up in November right where they left off in October, continuing its mass effort to release content across multiple platforms. The new hobbit trilogy is not even out in theatres yet, but it is already hitting the mobile circuit. Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment has teamed up with Kabam, a leading producer of multiplayer games for electronic devices, to launch “The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth” app for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices. The game is based on collective strategy with other users and is free for all consumers of the aforementioned devices. (13)
In the midst of these new platforms, Warner Bros did not forgot about the one that made it a player in the first place: the big screen. In 2003, Warner Bros became one of the first film companies to partner with the IMAX Corporation. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, the two sides agreed on a new 20-picture deal over the next three years. Among the anticipated Warner Bros titles that will be showcased via the IMAX experience are “300: Rise of an Empire” (August 2, 2013) and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (December 13, 2013). (14)