Ex-Warner Bros. exec becomes Disney studio chief

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. said Thursday that it hired former president of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Alan Horn, to lead its movie studio as chairman, a personnel move that attempts to right the wrongs that led to blockbuster bomb "John Carter."

Horn, 69, oversaw the hugely successful runs of the "Harry Potter" and "The Dark Knight" movies at Warner Bros. and is one of the highest-profile executives in Hollywood. Horn had stepped down at Warner Bros. in April 2011 and had a consulting agreement through 2013. He's also credited as a producer on the upcoming "Hobbit" movies.

Horn starts at Disney on June 11, just under two months after Rich Ross, the company's former chairman stepped down. That move was widely seen as Ross taking the fall for "John Carter," the science-fiction movie set on Mars which caused an epic $200 million write-off for Disney.

Ross had a TV background, developing hits like "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical" as former head of Disney Channels Worldwide. Television projects tend to have more time to develop than movies and cost less. Movie projects are high-pressure ventures in which minimizing risk is a key factor in decision-making.

Horn appears to be a safer bet for Disney. He is a veteran movie-studio executive, who also brings with him independent-producer chops.

Before joining Warner Bros., Horn cofounded and was CEO of Castle Rock Entertainment, which made such acclaimed films as "A Few Good Men," ''The Shawshank Redemption" and "When Harry Met Sally." Horn has also served as president and chief operating officer of News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox.

"To me, he seems like the best of both worlds," said Richard Walter, a screenwriting professor at UCLA. "People who want successful franchises can say, 'Look, we've got Alan Horn.' People who want riskier productions can say, 'Hey, we've got Alan Horn.'"

Horn will oversee worldwide production, distribution and marketing for live-action and animated films from Disney, Pixar and Marvel and movies made by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios.

A day before the announcement, Disney CEO Bob Iger said during an analysts' conference that he was looking for someone who could provide consistency.

Indeed, Disney has experienced head-spinning highs and lows recently. Just a couple months after its "John Carter" disaster, "The Avengers" became its highest-grossing film of all time, with global ticket sales of $1.3 billion since its May 4 U.S. release.

"We've got a business that has done well on the animated front and on the Marvel front, but our results on the live-action front have been inconsistent this year in particular," Iger said. "The goal is to find a management team that is capable of creating higher-quality films under the Disney live-action banner on a more consistent basis."

Disney is aiming to produce two animated movies per year under the Disney or Pixar brands, two Marvel movies, and six to eight other live-action films, some of which come from DreamWorks.

Horn said in a statement that he was "incredibly excited" about joining Disney, "one of the most iconic and beloved entertainment companies in the world."

He helped Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Inc., become the global box office leader for seven years of his 12-year tenure. He oversaw all eight films in the "Harry Potter" series, as well as "The Dark Knight," ''Sherlock Holmes," ''Million Dollar Baby," and the "Ocean's Eleven" trilogy.

Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer wished Horn well in a statement. "He's been a part of some of the most popular films produced in the last decade, and we're very happy for him," Meyer said.

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