Of all the rumors swirling around the Warner Bros. film studio these days, here is the most intriguing: Alan Horn, the former Warners film chief, who retired in January after a stellar nine-year run atop Disney’s movie unit, is said to be in talks to return to his former home under new Warner Bros. Discovery C.E.O. David Zaslav.
In the film world, that would be the executive equivalent of a blockbuster. Horn has enjoyed one of the great Hollywood careers. Over five decades, he co-founded Castle Rock, got rich on Seinfeld, then joined Warner Bros., where he is credited with popularizing the “tentpole” strategy of pouring huge resources into a small number of high-priority films, like Harry Potter or Batman or The Hobbit, that prop up the entire studio. Time Warner C.E.O. Jeff Bewkes pushed Horn out at age 68 in 2011, a decision that Bob Iger quickly capitalized on. During Horn’s tenure, Disney remade itself as a megahit factory, producing almost exclusively pre-branded tentpoles from the Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Disney Studios and Disney Animation units, releasing 20 billion-dollar grossers, and setting an industry high-water mark of $11 billion in global box office in 2019—a feat that few believe will ever be replicated.
So, yeah, it’s easy to see why Zaslav would be interested in Horn, especially since Zaz has made it clear to insiders that he wants to remake Warners in the image of Disney, with siloed units like DC, New Line and Animation, run by individual creative leaders, yet all reporting up to a film boss overseeing the total output.