'Batman v Superman' Fallout: Warner Bros. Shakes Up Executive Roles

‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (Warner Bros.)

By Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter

Jon Berg and Geoff Johns will co-run DC Films in an attempt to course correct Warners’ comic book movies.

The fallout from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice continues to ripple through Warner Bros.

The Burbank-based studio is making changes to the way it handles its DC Entertainment-centered films, giving oversight of the feature projects to a pair of executives and creating a dedicated division for the films. Current exec vp Jon Berg and Geoff Johns, DC’s CCO who successfully launched the comics label’s foray into television, will co-run DC Films, according to multiple sources. Warner Bros. declined to comment.

This move is part of a broader refinement of executive roles at Warners, which has suffered a disappointing run of movies and has vexed producers and filmmakers, some of whom complain about a murky greenlight process.

Instead of a broad range of movies to oversee, executives will be charged with managing “genre streams.“ In many cases, these streams formalize interests and specialties for specific execs. Courtenay Valenti, for example, will now oversee all Lego Movie projects as well as the Harry Potter line that begins with November’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Senior production executives Jesse Ehrman and Niija Kuykendall will focus more on comedy/family and sci-fi/action, respectively, according to sources.

More: Box Office: The Verdict for ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’

Further executive changes are anticipated, including a potential hire at the senior level.

Berg was already working on BvS, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Justice League. He also is the conduit to Ben Affleck, having worked with the actor-filmmaker on Argo and Live by Night, the crime thriller Affleck recently wrapped as director, writer and star for the studio.

Comics writer-turned-exec Johns, meanwhile, masterminded the ascension of shows such as Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl and is the writer behind DC’s upcoming Rebirth, the publishing side’s reboot of its titles that will play out over the summer months. Johns is not leaving DC, according to sources, but adding film to his portfolio. Johns will still report to DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson while Berg will report to Warner Bros. Pictures president Gregg Silverman.

With Berg and Johns, Warners is attempting to unify the disparate elements of the DC movies with a seasoned film exec and a comics veteran that together can hopefully emulate the way Marvel Studios has produced its films under the vision of president Kevin Feige. But sources also say Warners still wants to remain filmmaker-driven. As part of the new job, Berg and Johns will become producers on the Justice League movies.

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The muted reception of BvS, from a box office and critical point of view, is the flashpoint for the changes. The studio had high hopes for the movie, which pitted its top heroes against each other. The door was opened for director Zack Snyder to be involved in shaping the look and content of the entire DC line, which is scheduled through 2020. But critics and fans ripped into the first movie and especially Snyder for perceived missteps including its heroes’ unheroic behavior and the dark tone. BvS, which cost at least $300 million to make, has grossed under $870 million worldwide since its March 25 release.

In stark contrast, Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War is heading towards $1 billion in less than two weeks of release. The movie too pitted heroes against each other but Marvel’s lighter tone and bright colors (while tackling more serious themes) are clearly resonating with audiences.

So Warners is attempting a course correction.

More: 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’: Film Review

The shuffle, as well as Berg and Johns’ new positions, come as other changes are being implemented on the DC movies. For example, Affleck was recently made executive producer on Justice League, upping his creative involvement when it comes to all things Batman and perhaps beyond.

Warners parted ways with screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith who was to have made his directorial debut with The Flash. In another example of post-BvS fallout, the studio didn’t feel confident in a first-time director and is now looking for a more seasoned filmmaker who can not only handle a large $150 million-plus movie but who can also have an authoritative stamp.

And the studio is working to smooth out the third act of Suicide Squad, its big August movie from director David Ayer that could change the perception of its DC line. The movie’s trailers have generated massive positive interest in the all-star actioner that features DC villains and the studio wants to make sure audiences’ expectations are not only met but exceeded.

More: CinemaCon: Warner Bros. Chief Says Ben Affleck’s Stand-Alone Batman Movie Is a Go

Squad recently went under major additional photography (multiple sources say it was not to add humor) to clear up the issues. Sources say that it was Squad that escalated Johns’ involvement in DC movies and that he is involved in the movie’s post-production.