LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Alan Horn, the Walt Disney Co's new studio chairman, won't shy away from making big budget films despite Hollywood's recent string of big budget bombs such as Disney's "John Carter" and Universal Pictures' "Battleship."
Horn, who spearheaded such expensive hits as the "Harry Potter" series while president of Warner Brothers Entertainment, intends to focus on six to eight films a year geared toward Disney's core audience of families and young adults, he says, and was not told by Disney CEO Bob Iger to rein in budgets.
"All Bob said was 'make good movies,'" Horn, 69, told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I've made expensive films that have flopped, and boy do they hurt."
"But I'm screenplay driven, character driven," he added. "If you start with a really great idea, the budget will resolve itself. And that budget could be substantial."
Horn follows Rich Ross, a former Disney Channel executive, who was pushed out for moving too slowly to put films into production and not watching the rising budget for "John Carter." In 2009, long-time studio chief Dick Cook was fired after studio earnings fell 84 percent on the heels of big budget disappointments like "G-Force" and "Surrogates."
Disney's big hits recently have come largely from its animation unit Pixar and its Marvel super hero factory, both of which make hugely expensive movies.
But the payoff has been spectacular. Disney has so far generated more than $1.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales for Marvel's "The Avengers," already Hollywood's fourth-largest film, according to Box Office Mojo. That film was made for more than $220 million.
Disney has another "Avengers" movie in the works and next year will release the third "Iron Man" movie.
The movies can also be "leveraged," Iger often says. In June, Disney will open a ride at the Disney California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, based on Pixar's blockbuster movie "Cars." Iger told analysts that the company is planning rides at some of its theme parks based on Marvel characters.
Horn's job will be to work with creative executives at both Pixar and Marvel, which have both operated largely independently since Disney acquired them.
"I take this as an opportunity to work with truly gifted people," said Horn, who says he has yet to meet key executives at either unit. "My job is to be as constructive and collegial as I can."
Horn, who starts June 11, says his focus is to make films that appeal to what he calls "the Disney imprimatur" - "films that people have come to expect from Disney."
But Horn stresses that he doesn't intend to make just G-rated movies.
"I approved 'Happy Feet,' which appealed to the whole family," he said. "I also approved 'The Hangover.'"
(Reporting By Ronald Grover; Editing by Chris Gallagher)