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Warner Bros. marketing and distribution head Sue Kroll to step down in April amid studio restructuring

Warner Bros. marketing and distribution head Sue Kroll to step down in April amid studio restructuring
Warner Bros. marketing and distribution head Sue Kroll is stepping down from her position in April. (Ramona Rosales / Warner Bros.)

Warner Bros. marketing and distribution head Sue Kroll is stepping down from her position in April, as part of a larger restructuring of the studio's film and home entertainment businesses.

Kroll, the studio veteran who was most recently president of worldwide marketing and distribution, will become a producer at Warner Bros. attached to upcoming films including "A Star is Born" and "Motherless Brooklyn," the studio said in a statement Tuesday.

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The move is the latest effort by Time Warner Inc.-owned Warner Bros. to consolidate operations under Toby Emmerich as it seeks to remain competitive in an industry that is being disrupted by digital technology.

Emmerich, who took the role of president and chief content officer of Warner Bros. Pictures Group last year after running New Line Cinema, now will have full oversight of worldwide theatrical production, marketing and distribution at the studio. He has been given the new title of chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group.

The reorganization is meant to help the studio better adapt to rapid changes in the business. The home entertainment industry has been hit hard with declines as consumers shift to streaming networks online. Studio insiders said Warner Bros.' previous strategy of marketing movies separately for theatrical release and home entertainment was outdated in today's marketplace.

"It's the right structure at the right time. We should be marketing our movies with a life cycle approach rather than marketing for the theatrical window and the home entertainment window," Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros., said in an interview. "It's really about having a marketing and distribution strategy that is seamless across windows. That's how the consumer thinks about movies, and that's how we want to be organized."

Parent company Time Warner is in the process of being acquired by AT&T, if the deal can clear regulatory hurdles. The companies are facing a legal showdown with the Justice Department over the mega-merger.

Studios including Warner Bros. are in discussions with theater chains about how to shorten the traditional window between a film's theatrical release and its availability for home viewing.

In other management changes, Kroll's lieutenant, Blair Rich, will become president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, in addition to her current role as marketing president for Warner Bros. Pictures Group. She has been credited for spearheading the successful campaign for the hit Stephen King adaptation "It."

Ron Sanders now will serve as president of worldwide distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures in addition to his responsibilities as president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Their promotions are effective immediately.

In her new producer role, Kroll will have a three-year deal with the studio and continue to oversee awards campaigns for big Warner Bros. movies, including Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" and "Wonder Woman," the company said. She is known to have long held greater ambitions in Hollywood, including running a studio, but had little room to advance at Warner Bros. with Emmerich in charge of the film business, said people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

Kroll, 56, has been with Warner Bros. for more than two decades, first joining in 1994 to lead programming and operations for the studio's international channels business. She was first named president of worldwide marketing in 2008. She took the role of marketing and international distribution president in 2013, before rising to her current position in 2015.

Warner Bros. has had a generally strong year at the box office with major hits including "Wonder Woman," "It" and "Dunkirk," despite flops such as "Geostorm " and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." The critical drubbing and box office disappointment of "Justice League" triggered a shakeup in the oversight of Warner Bros.' DC comic book films.

UPDATES:

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2:00 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros.

This article was originally published at 12:25 p.m.

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