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Warner Bros. Pictures

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Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. (1923–1967)
  • Warner Bros-First National Pictures, Inc. (1936-1958)
  • Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Inc. (1967–1969)
  • Warner Bros. Inc. (1969–2004)
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryFilm production
PredecessorWarner Features Company
FoundedApril 4, 1923; 101 years ago (1923-04-04) (as Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.)
Headquarters4000 Warner Boulevard, ,
Area served
Key people
ProductsMotion pictures
ParentWarner Bros. Motion Picture Group
Footnotes / references

Warner Bros. Pictures is an American film production and distribution company of the Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group division of Warner Bros. Entertainment (both ultimately owned by Warner Bros. Discovery). The studio is the flagship producer of live-action feature films within the Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group unit, and is based at the Warner Bros. Studios complex in Burbank, California. Animated films produced by Warner Bros. Pictures Animation are also released under the studio banner.[3]

Founded in 1923 by brothers Harry Warner, Albert Warner, Sam Warner, and Jack L. Warner, in addition to producing its own films, it handles filmmaking operations, theatrical distribution, marketing and promotion for films produced and released by other Warner Bros. labels, including Warner Bros. Pictures Animation, New Line Cinema, DC Studios, and Castle Rock Entertainment, as well as various third-party producers.

Warner Bros. Pictures is currently one of five live-action film studios within the Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group, the others being New Line Cinema, DC Studios, Castle Rock Entertainment, and a minority stake in Spyglass Media Group. The most commercially successful film series from Warners include Harry Potter, DC Universe (formerly DC Extended Universe), Batman, The Lord of the Rings, and Monsterverse; Barbie is the studio's highest-grossing film worldwide with $1.4 billion.[4]


The studio's predecessor (and the modern-day Warner Bros Entertainment as a whole) was founded as the Warner Features Company in New Castle, Pennsylvania, by filmmaker Sam Warner and his business partners and brothers, Harry, Albert, and Jack, in 1911.[5] They produced their first film, the Peril of the Plains[6] in 1912, which Sam directed for the St. Louis Motion Picture Company. In 1915, Sam and Jack moved to California to establish their production studio,[7] while Albert and Harry on July 8, 1915, set up the New York–based Warner Brothers Distributing Corporation to release the films.[8][9][10] In 1918, during WW1, to kickstart their business, the four Warner Brothers chose to produce an adaptation of the book My Four Years in Germany by James W. Gerard to be their first full-scale picture, as they were considered by the sensitivity of both the content and the war for their first production at the time.[11] The war film was a box office hit and helped the brothers establish themselves as a prestige studio.[12]

On April 4, 1923, Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. was officially established as their main focus was entirely on the motion picture industry.[13] In 1927, Warner Bros. Pictures revolutionized the film industry when the American-Jewish Warner brothers released their first pictures "talkie" The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson. However, founding member Sam Warner died prior to the premiere of the film.[14] When the company diversified over the years, it was eventually rebranded to its current umbrella name, but Warner Bros. Pictures continued to be used as the name of the film production arm of the company.

The studio has released twenty-five films that have received an Academy Award for Best Picture nomination: Disraeli (1929), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), 42nd Street (1933), Here Comes the Navy (1934), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), The Life of Emile Zola (1937), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four Daughters (1938), Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), to name a few.

In the aftermath of the 1948 antitrust suit, uncertain times led Warner Bros. in 1956 to sell most of its pre-1950[15][16][17] films and cartoons to Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.). In addition, a.a.p. also obtained the Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios Popeye cartoons, originally from Paramount Pictures. Two years later, a.a.p. was sold to United Artists (UA), which owned the company until 1981, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) acquired UA.[18][19]

In November 1966, Jack gave in to advancing age and changing times, selling 32% of control of the studio and music business to Seven Arts Productions, run by Canadian investors Elliot and Kenneth Hyman, for $32 million.[20] Eventually, the company, including the studio, was renamed Warner Bros.-Seven Arts on July 14, 1967.[21]

In 1982, during their independent years, Turner Broadcasting System acquired Brut Productions, the film production arm of France-based then-struggling personal-care company Faberge Inc.[22]

In 1986, Turner Broadcasting System acquired MGM. Finding itself in debt, Turner kept the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television libraries and a small portion of the UA library (including the a.a.p. library and North American rights to the RKO Radio Pictures library) while spinning off the rest of MGM.[23]

In 1989, Warner Communications acquired Lorimar-Telepictures Corporation and merged with Time Inc. to form Time Warner (now Warner Bros. Discovery).[24][25] Lorimar's catalogue included the post-1974 library of Rankin/Bass Productions, and the post-1947 library of Monogram Pictures/Allied Artists Pictures Corporation.

In 1991, Turner Broadcasting System acquired animation studio Hanna-Barbera and the Ruby-Spears library from Great American Broadcasting, and years later, Turner Broadcasting System acquired Castle Rock Entertainment on December 22, 1993[26][27] and New Line Cinema on January 28, 1994.[28][29] On October 10, 1996, Time Warner Entertainment acquired Turner Broadcasting System, thus bringing Warner Bros.'s pre-1950 library back home. In addition, Warner Bros. only owns Castle Rock Entertainment's post-1994 library.

Warner Bros. Pictures[edit]

Warner Bros. Pictures on-screen logo used from January 1998 until March 2022; shown here is the 1999 variant.

The division was incorporated as Warner Bros. Pictures on March 3, 2003, to diversify film subjects and expand audiences for their film releases.[30] The company became part of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, which was established in 2008, and Jeff Robinov was appointed the first president of the company.[31] In 2017, longtime New Line executive Toby Emmerich joined as president.[32] In January 2018, he was elevated to chairman.[33][34] On October 23, 2018, it was announced Lynne Frank, President of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, would be leaving the company to pursue new opportunities.[35] In June 2019, Warner Bros. Pictures signed an agreement with SF Studios to have their films distributed in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.[36]

Warner Bros. Pictures logo used from 2019 to 2023. The on-screen logo ran from August 2020 to August 2023. The print logo remained in use on film posters from 2019 to 2024.

As with most other film distributors, Warner Bros. Pictures struggled with releasing films during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic due to restrictions on theater openings. After pushing several films planned for 2020 into 2021, WB announced in December 2020 that they would take the unusual approach of having their entire slate of 2021 films planned for both theatrical release as well as having a simultaneous one-month period of availability on the HBO Max streaming service, in a similar manner for how they were releasing Wonder Woman 1984 that month. After one month, such films would still be available in theaters and would then later be available via home media under typical release schedules.[37] The move to include streaming, dubbed "Project Popcorn", was criticized by production companies, directors, and actors as Warner Bros. Pictures had not informed anyone about the plan ahead of the announcement, as well of concerns of lower payouts due to the streaming options,[38] leading Warner Bros. Pictures to alter its compensation rates for the affected films by January 2021 to provide larger payouts to casts and crews of these films.[39]

In March 2021 Warner Bros. announced that for 2022 they will discontinue their same-day HBO Max and theatrical release model in favor of a 45-day theatrical exclusivity window.[40] This is part of an agreement the studio reached with Cineworld (who operates Regal Cinemas).[41]

Alternate version of the 2023 Warner Bros. Pictures logo without the banner, used as on-screen variant at few films. Although the late-2023 on-screen logo has been used since December 6, 2023, this logo remains in use for corporate and small-scale purposes.[42]

On June 1, 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), the company formerly known as Discovery, Inc. prior to its acquisition of WarnerMedia two months earlier, announced that Emmerich will step down as head of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group after a transition period, and that it would be divided into three separate units; Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema, DC Films, and Warner Animation Group. Former MGM executives Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy would serve as the co-chairs of Warner Bros. Pictures (and temporarily oversee the other two divisions until new executives are hired for them), while Emmerich would start his own production company and enter into a five-year distribution and funding agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures.[43][44] On June 8, COO Carolyn Blackwood announced that she was stepping down as well.[45]

Steve Spira returned as president of business affairs for Warner Bros. in June 2022, while De Luca and Abdy took over from Emmerich in July 2022. Former president Alan Horn was appointed as a consultant for WBD President David Zaslav, working with De Luca and Abdy.[46]

In August 2022, Warner Bros. Pictures entered into a multi-year deal for distributing MGM films outside the United States, including on home entertainment. The contract included joint participation of both companies for marketing, advertising, publicity, film distribution, and relationship with exhibitors for future MGM titles.[47] That same month, plans for film distribution at the studio were changed, with the studio relying more on theatrical releases than HBO Max-only releases.[48]

Walter Hamada, the president of DC Films, stepped down on October 19, 2022.[49] President of Production & Development Courtenay Valenti exited on October 28 and was replaced by Jesse Ehrman.[50][51] On June 9, 2023, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group was renamed as the Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group.[52]

Film library[edit]

Gate 4, Warner Bros. Studios, looking south towards the water tower

Mergers and acquisitions have helped Warner Bros. accumulate a diverse collection of films, cartoons and television programs. As of 2022, Warner Bros. owned more than 145,000 hours of programming, including 12,500 feature films and 2,400 television programs comprising more than tens of thousands of individual episodes.[53]

Shared universes[edit]

Warner Bros. owns some shared universes. Some of them are based on books and comics, including some of the highest grossing IP's in the movie industry.

IP No. Films Notes
DC Extended Universe 15 Movies based on DC Comics. DCEU was Warner Bros.'s first iteration of a shared universe. The DC Universe serves as an upcoming reboot, led by James Gunn.
DC Universe Upcoming reboot of the DC Extended Universe, led by James Gunn. First movie, expected to be released in 2025.
Wizarding World 11 Film rights sold by J. K. Rowling for 2 million $ and a net % of the profits. This shared universe became the 4th highest grossing IP in movie history. This universe includes 8 movies based on the Harry Potter books and 3 movies based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The Conjuring 8 Dramatized horror movies based on real-life cases of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. This shared universe includes movies like Annabelle, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona.
Monsterverse 5 Shared Universe based on monster movie characters like Godzilla and King Kong, in addition to other kaiju characters created by Toho, including Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. Made in co-production with Legendary Entertainment.
Middle Earth 6 Movie series based on the books written by J. R. R. Tolkien, directed by Peter Jackson.
Lego 4 Warner Bros owned the rights to Lego films up until the end of 2019. More Lego movies were planned, but were cancelled after Universal Pictures bought the Lego film rights. Cancelled sequels include a sequel to The Lego Batman Movie, called Lego Superfriends.[54][55]
Clint Eastwood's relationship with Warner Bros. began in 1971, and he has directed several of the studios best known films, including Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).[56]
Christopher Nolan wrote and directed several of Warner Bros.'s most profitable films in the early 21st century. Like Eastwood, Nolan has had a long creative partnership with the studio.[57]

Film series[edit]

Title Release date No. of films Notes
Gold Diggers 1923–51 7
Looney Tunes 1930–present 8
Penrod and Sam 1931–38 2
Perry Mason 1934–37 6
Philo Vance 1934–40 5
Torchy Blane 1937–39 9
Four Daughters 1938–41 4
Nancy Drew 1938–2019 6
Secret Service 1939–40 4
Ocean's 1960–present 5 co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures (2001–present)
Dirty Harry 1971–88
The Exorcist 1973–2005 4 co-production with Morgan Creek (3–4)
Oh, God! 1977–84 3
Every Which Way but Loose 1978–80 2
Superman 1978–2006 6 co-production with Legendary Pictures (2006)
Mad Max 1979–present 5 co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures
Poseidon 1979–2006 2
Friday the 13th 1980–2009 co-production with Paramount Pictures and New Line Cinema
The Shining 1980–2019
Arthur 1981–2011 3
Blade Runner 1982–2017 2 co-production with Alcon Entertainment and Columbia Pictures (2017)
National Lampoon's Vacation 1983–2015 5
Police Academy 1984–94 7
Sesame Street 1985–present 2 co-production with Sesame Workshop
Lethal Weapon 1987–98 4
The Lost Boys 1987–2010 3
Beetlejuice 1988–present 1
Batman 1989–97 4 co-production with Polygram Pictures (1989–95)
Under Siege 1992–95 2 co-production with Regency Enterprises
Unforgiven 1992–2013
Grumpy Old Men 1993–95
The Fugitive 1993–98
Free Willy 1993–2010 4 co-production with Regency Enterprises
Major League 1994–98 2 distribution only; co-production with Morgan Creek
Ace Ventura 1994–2009 3
Eraser 1996–2022 2
Twister 1996–2024 co-production with Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, The Kennedy/Marshall Company and Domain Pictures
The Matrix 1999–present 4 co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures
Analyze 1999–2002 2 co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures and TriBeCa Productions
Pokémon 1999–2019 4 US distribution only; co-production with The Pokémon Company
Deep Blue Sea 1999–2020 3 co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures
The Whole Yards 2000–04 2 distribution only; co-production with Morgan Creek (2000) and Franchise Pictures
Miss Congeniality 2000–05 co-production with Castle Rock Entertainment and Village Roadshow Pictures
Tom and Jerry 2001–present 16 co-production with Turner Entertainment
Cats & Dogs 2001–20 3 co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures (1–2)
Wizarding World 2001–present 11
Scooby-Doo 2002–present 6
Kangaroo Jack 2003–04 2 co-production with Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Terminator 2003–09 co-production with Columbia Pictures
A Cinderella Story 2004–present 6
Laura's Star 2004–11 5
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2005–08 2 co-production with Alloy Entertainment
The Dark Knight trilogy 2005–12 3 co-production with Legendary Pictures
Willy Wonka 2005–present 2 co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures
Happy Feet 2006–11
300 2006–14 co-production with Legendary Pictures
The Hangover 2009–13 3
Final Destination 2009–present 2 co-production with New Line Cinema and Practical Pictures
Sherlock Holmes co-production with Village Roadshow Pictures
Watchmen 1 US distribution only; co-production with Paramount Pictures, DC Studios (both 2009–present) and Legendary Pictures (2009)
Dolphin Tale 2011–14 2 co-production with Alcon Entertainment
The Hobbit 2012–14 3 co-production with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, New Line Cinema and WingNut Films
Magic Mike 2012–23
DC Extended Universe 2013–23 15 co-production with DC Entertainment (2013–16), DC Studios (2016–23) and RatPac Entertainment (2016)
The Conjuring Universe 2013–present 7 co-production with Atomic Monster, The Safran Company and New Line Cinema
The Lego Movie 2014–19 4 co-production with Warner Bros. Pictures Animation, Village Roadshow Pictures (2014) and Lego System A/S
MonsterVerse 2014–present 5 co-production with Legendary Pictures
Creed 2015–present 3 co-production with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line Cinema (1–2)
It 2017–19 2 co-production with New Line Cinema
The Meg 2018–present
Detective Pikachu 2019–present 1 co-production with Legendary Pictures, The Pokémon Company and Toho
Joker co-production with DC Studios and Village Roadshow Pictures
Dune 2021–present 2 co-production with Legendary Pictures
The Batman 2022–present 1 co-production with DC Studios

Highest-grossing films[edit]

Highest-grossing films in North America[58]
Rank Title Year Box office gross
1 Barbie 2023 $636,230,472
2 The Dark Knight 2008 $534,987,076
3 The Dark Knight Rises 2012 $448,149,584
4 Wonder Woman 2017 $412,845,172
5 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 2011 $381,447,587
6 The Batman 2022 $369,345,583
7 American Sniper 2014 $350,159,020
8 Joker 2019 $335,477,657
9 Aquaman 2018 $335,104,314
10 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 2016 $330,360,194
11 It 2017 $328,874,981
12 Suicide Squad 2016 $325,100,054
13 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 2001 $318,886,962
14 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 1 2012 $303,030,651
15 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2009 $302,334,374
16 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 2010 $296,374,621
17 Inception $292,587,330
18 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 2007 $292,382,727
19 Man of Steel 2013 $291,045,518
20 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2005 $290,469,928
21 Dune: Part Two 2024 $282,144,358
22 The Matrix Reloaded 2003 $281,576,461
23 The Hangover 2009 $277,339,746
24 Gravity 2013 $274,092,705
25 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002 $262,641,637
Highest-grossing films worldwide
Rank Title Year Box office gross
1 Barbie 2023 $1,445,630,472
2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 2011 $1,342,359,942
3 Aquaman 2018 $1,148,528,393
4 The Dark Knight Rises 2012 $1,081,153,097
5 Joker 2019 $1,074,445,730
6 The Dark Knight 2008 $1,029,266,147
7 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 2001 $1,017,713,119
8 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 1 2012 $1,017,030,651
9 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 2010 $977,070,383
10 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 1 2013 $959,027,992
11 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 1 2014 $956,019,788
12 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 2007 $942,201,710
13 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2009 $934,483,039
14 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2005 $896,730,264
15 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002 $879,793,867
16 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 2016 $873,637,528
17 Inception 2010 $836,848,102
18 Wonder Woman 2017 $822,854,286
19 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2016 $814,037,575
20 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004 $796,907,323
21 Interstellar 2014 $773,897,851
22 The Batman 2022 $770,962,583
23 Suicide Squad 2016 $746,846,894
24 The Matrix Reloaded 2003 $741,847,937
25 Gravity 2013 $723,192,705

‡ — Includes theatrical reissue(s)


  1. ^ co-owned by New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (the film's producers)


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External links[edit]