Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) CEO David Zaslav has appointed Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise director James Gunn and veteran executive Peter Safran co-heads of DC Studios as he seeks to replicate the phenomenal cultural and commercial success of arch-rival Marvel Studios.
As co-chairmen and chief executive officers of DC Studios, which replaces DC Films, the pair will be responsible for a long-term strategy to exploit the DC Universe, which has had its hits but overall has produced a patchy record of adaptations.
Gunn and Safran officially start on November 1 and report to Zaslav. They will work closely with Warner Bros Film Group co-heads Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy as well as Warner Bros Television, HBO and HBO Max, US Networks Group, Warner Bros Discovery Consumer Products, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Screen understands the appointments come after months of talks between WBD, Gunn and Safran reportedly initiated by De Luca. It is it understood Gunn and Safran will divide creative and production duties at the studio, and will continue to direct and produce, respectively.
The new arrivals replace Walter Hamada, a 15-year Warner Bros veteran who ran DC Films for the past four years but was reportedly upset when Zaslav shelved the $90m Batgirl. Last week he became the fifth senior executive to depart under Zaslav after film group chairman Toby Emmerich, film group COO Carolyn Blackwood, production/development head Courtenay Valenti, and animation group EVP Allison Abbate.
Both Gunn and Safran have extensive experience working with Warner Bros and New Line. Gunn directed 2021’s The Suicide Squad and HBO Max series spin-off Peacemaker, as well as Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2. He directed the first two Guardians Of The Galaxy films for Marvel and was fired from Vol.3 only to be reinstated on the film, which is set for a May 5 2023 release.
Safran has a storied track record with WBD companies, having produced Aquaman and the upcoming Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom, Shazam and the upcoming Shazam: Fury Of The Gods, The Suicide Squad, Annabelle, and the entire Conjuring universe films.
Zaslav will be hoping to put recent travails behind him such as the Batgirl decision, which incensed the filmmakers as well as the creative and fan communities. This week WBD said in a Security And Exchange Commission filing that it was taking a tax write-off of up to $2.5bn for the July-September period as part of a $3.2bn-$4.3bn pre-tax restructure. Zaslav said in April he needed to find $3bn in cost savings and has implemented wide staff lay-offs and shelved projects like Batgirl and a Wonder Twins film for HBO Max.
DC success stories include this year’s The Batman on $770m worldwide, 2019’s Joker and 2018’s Aquaman on $1.1bn apiece, 2018’s Wonder Woman on $823m, and Christopher Nolan’s $2.4bn-grossing Dark Knight trilogy. Black Adam starring Dwayne Johnson got off to a promising start last weekend and earned approximately $143m worldwide.
Besides the upcoming Aquaman and Shazam sequels, Todd Phillips is working on a Joker sequel, and The Batman director Matt Reeves is expected to deliver more through his first-look deal with Warner Bros.
Gunn and Safran said: “We look forward to collaborating with the most talented writers, directors, and actors in the world to create an integrated, multilayered universe that still allows for the individual expression of the artists involved. Our commitment to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harley Quinn, and the rest of the DC stable of characters is only equaled by our commitment to the wonder of human possibility these characters represent.”
WBD reports third quarter earnings on November 3.
This article originally appeared on KFTVs sister site, Screendaily.