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Disney names an executives' executive in Alan Horn to run movie studio

Ringing the opening bell at The New York Stock Exchange as part of a celebration of the release of Marvel Studios
Ringing the opening bell at The New York Stock Exchange as part of a celebration of the release of Marvel Studios "Marvel's The Avengers" on May 1, 2012 in New York City. Walt Disney Studios' new head, Alan Horn, will want to see more events like this.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

When Rich Ross, a former TV guy, was ousted as the head of Walt Disney Studios, the moviemaking arm of the Mighty Mouse, it was generally assumed that someone with a tad more experience on the film side would be his replacement.

Ultimately, Disney went with experience and then some. Maybe a bit too much experience, in fact.

Alan Horn assumes the role, coming out of semi-retirement after a strong tenure at Warner Bros., where as president he oversaw the highly successful "Harry Potter" and "Dark Knight" franchises. This is from Bloomberg:

Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger has placed a high priority on the studio, which lost $84 million last quarter because of “John Carter.” The studio is benefiting this month from “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which has posted $1.31 billion in worldwide sales and lifted Disney to first in U.S. theater revenue at $742.7 million....

But here's the thing: Horn is 69. That in and of itself isn't necessarily an issue. Who wants to retire anymore! And the early reaction to Horn's hire, if the Hollywood Reporter is anything to go by, was extremely positive.

However, what Disney is likely to get from Horn, both good and bad, is less of the synergy across business that Ross promised and more of a focus of old-school moviemaking. He will reportedly produce up to eight new Disney movies every year — beyond the output of Marvel Studios, which has been raking it in with the superhero stuff of late.

Horn has a great track record. Before Warner, he started Castle Rock Entertainment and brought the world "When Harry Met Sally" and "Seinfeld."

He's in a good position. With sequels and sequel-ish mashups of "Iron Man," "Captain America," "Thor" and "The Hulk" bringing in substantial box office revenues, Horn can try to revive the non-superhero side of things. Walt Disney Studios certainly needs it. Movies make up 16 percent of Disney's revenues, trailing other businesses, such as theme parks. Bob Iger certainly wants to see that percentage rise. 

But Iger intends to retire in three years. Horn will be in his seventies by then. So the obvious question is: Does he have enough time to fix the Disney movie business, or is his job merely to keep it from getting worse?

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