Ben Fritz profiled Jeff Robinov in today’s L.A. Times. Robinov is about to succeed Alan Horn as the top film exec at Warner Bros., and is one of the main candidates to replace studio chairman Barry Meyer after his contract is up in 2013. So it’s worth taking a look at the man who would run Warner Bros., the studio that finished among the top two studios in market share seven times between 2001 and 2010. And he has some big plans for the company’s comic book properties.
“The Dark Knight Rises” and the new “Superman” are both due out next year. Looking beyond that, Robinov is talking up a “Justice League” film in 2013 as well as a rebooted “Batman” in the post-Nolan era. Yes, the new “Batman” hasn’t even started filming, and he’s already plotting for a reboot with Nolan and Emma Thomas producing. The “Batman” thing is unsurprising — at this point in time, the two biggest comic book movie properties are “Batman” and “Spider-Man” (no, “X-Men” and “Superman” don’t make the top two) — but the “Justice League” tidbit was unexpected. After all, a “Justice League” movie (directed by George Miller and starring Adam Brody and Armie Hammer, among others) was thisclose to production before the writer’s strike of 2007 and 2008.
Robinov is clearly watching Marvel (and their new parent company, Disney) rev up for “The Avengers,” and has decided to take the same road but in the opposite direction. Whereas Marvel is rolling out solo flicks for Captain America and Thor before they join Iron Man on-screen next year, Robinov wants to put everybody together in a “Justice League” movie and give The Flash and Wonder Woman solo adventures afterwards. (This doesn’t include “Green Lantern,” already heading for theaters this summer, but that film is mentioned as one of their big comic book properties.)
This guy has an intriguing history. He likes big-budget “tentpoles,” as you can tell from the comic book movie thing. He closed the specialty movie division in 2008 and infamously passed on “Slumdog Millionaire.” According to the story, people say “Robinov’s greatest strength is his willingness to take creative risks on ambitious movies — a rarity in a business that increasingly plays it safe.” This is defined as hiring Chrisopher Nolan, Guy Ritchie and Zack Snyder to direct major properties, and I guess those are creative risks. Nolan’s “Batman” movies were stripped-down, realistic affairs about vigilantism and terrorism; Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” devoted an entire film to the unconsummated love between Holmes and Watson.
He takes over movies during a crucial moment for Warner Bros. The “Harry Potter” gravy train ends this summer, and next year brings Nolan’s final “Batman” as well as the potential relaunching of “Superman.” Nolan’s film is a sure thing, but Snyder’s “Superman” has a lot of work to do to achieve the megahit status Warner Bros. wants. Meanwhile, Marvel properties should soak up lots of the attention next year, with “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” looking to be two of the biggest films on the schedule. It’s interesting to see how Robinov is choosing to bank on his company’s established, but often cinematically troubled, stable of characters. After all, if Marvel and its affiliated studios can make two “Hulk” movies, a “Daredevil” flick and two “Punisher” movies in a matter of years, why shouldn’t iconic characters like Wonder Woman and the Flash get their shot?