James Gunn and Peter Safran appointed to lead DC Studios

Warner Bros. Discovery has found its leaders for the DC Film and TV Universe.

The company on Tuesday named filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran as co-presidents and general managers of DC Studios, where they will oversee the creative direction of the superhero franchise’s productions in film, television and animation. .

They will report directly to the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, who promised investors a 10-year plan modeled on Walt Disney Co.’s successful Marvel Studios strategy.

Both Gunn and Safran have experience with DC materials.

Gunn directed the 2021 DC feature “The Suicide Squad,” the irreverent R-rated film about a special team of villains working for a shadowy government agency. He also created the HBO Max spinoff series “Peacemaker,” based on a character from “The Suicide Squad.”

In an unusual situation, Gunn has also directed films for rival Marvel, the blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. Last Tuesday, Gunn released a trailer for a “Guardians of the Galaxy” holiday special produced for Disney+.

Safran was a producer on the Warner Bros. “Conjuring” films. and New Line, plus DC episodes including “Aquaman,” “Shazam!” and “The Suicide Squad”. Before launching his production company, the Safran Co., he was president of Brillstein-Grey Management, which has many high-profile clients.

The duo will work alongside Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, who in June were named co-presidents and CEOs of Warner Bros. Film Group, overseeing non-superhero live-action films. They were also tasked with running the DC slate until Zaslav found someone to run the franchise.

DC has some of the best known superheroes – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman – but has not always lived up to its potentialplaying an underdog for Disney and Marvel over the past decade.

The most recent outing, “Black Adam,” worth $195 million, starring Dwayne Johnson as the titular anti-hero, debuted with a solid $67 million airfare. dollars in the United States and Canada last weekend and announced the return of Henry Cavill as Superman. .

The announcement ends speculation about who would replace Walter Hamada, who previously directed superhero films for the Burbank studio under what was then called DC Films.

The company was in talks with Dan Lin, known for producing on Warner Bros. Films “Lego” and “It”, but the talks collapsed. Running DC will bring a monumental task and constant comparisons to the success rate of Marvel President Kevin Feige, the result of a deep and unique understanding of the comic book source material.

Over the past few years, DC has churned out hits like “Aquaman,” “Shazam,” “Joker,” and “The Batman.” “Birds of Prey” disappointed at the box office, and “The Suicide Squad” and “Wonder Woman 1984” were hampered by their simultaneous release on HBO Max.

But questions about DC aren’t necessarily about all recent performances. This is the strategy for the next few years.

In an attempt to catch up with Feige at Marvel and Disney, DC tried to build an extended universe too quickly, betting on Zack Snyder’s vision after 2013’s “Man of Steel.” But bad creative decisions and doubts got in the way, and “Justice League,” which was supposed to be DC’s “Avengers,” performed poorly at the box office and was torn apart by the fans.

Warner Bros. then moved away from some of the universe building in an attempt to focus on creating individual blockbuster films based on the IP. The result is that there are now several disparate timelines for DC movies and TV shows, including “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson in a noir version of the Caped Crusader. One of the challenges will be figuring out which storylines to pull together and how to do it.

“There’s a lot of risk taking that DC may not have gotten all the credit for, but there are also movies that still illustrate why there’s no cohesive vision,” Shawn Robbins said. , chief analyst at Box Office Pro. the Times last week. “It’s fascinating to see how these different universes live within the broad DC spectrum.”

DC is a key property for Warner Bros. Discovery, which wants to maximize box office returns while growing HBO Max subscribers, while trying to be fiscally responsible. The company shelved a nearly completed DC movie, “Batgirl,” after determining it was too expensive for streaming but not epic enough for theaters.

Kimberly B. Nguyen