BURBANK, Calif. — Alan F. Horn was pushed out by Warner Brothers in 2011 after a celebrated run as its film chief — too old, too out of touch, he was told. Toddle off into a happy retirement, he was advised. Read a book.
Since then, Mr. Horn, 71, has achieved something rare in show business, if not in business over all: He has rewritten his own ending.
Mr. Horn in 2012 became chairman of Walt Disney Studios, which he has helped turn into Hollywood’s most formidable movie operation, at least in the eyes of Wall Street. At a time when investors dismiss most film companies as footnotes, Mr. Horn’s studio, which includes Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, on Thursday reported a record $1.55 billion in profit for its last fiscal year, up from $661 million in 2013.
Over the weekend, “Big Hero 6,” Disney’s animated follow-up to “Frozen,” was No. 1 at the domestic box office, taking in $56.2 million to rout the space epic “Interstellar.” “Maleficent,” starring Angelina Jolie, was the No. 1 nonsuperhero movie of the summer, taking in $757.6 million worldwide. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a Marvel film, ranks as the year’s No. 1 movie over all, with global ticket sales of $768 million.
Moreover, Disney’s pipeline is overflowing with potential blockbusters. Disney will release 21 big-budget movies in the next three years; it released 13 in the last three.
Three “Star Wars” films and three “Avengers” sequels are on the way. Pixar is working on “Finding Dory” and “Toy Story 4.” Disney’s live-action label, which was floundering with bombs like “John Carter” when Mr. Horn took over, has a new “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a follow-up to “Alice in Wonderland,” which took in more than $1 billion in 2010.
“Hiring Alan was the equivalent of a team signing the greatest free agent on the market, and we were very lucky that he was a free agent,” said Robert A. Iger, the Walt Disney Company’s chief executive.....
Mr. Horn has the most involvement with Disney’s slate of live-action films; it makes about five a year. When he arrived, the studio had just suffered a $200 million loss on “John Carter” and production was underway on “The Lone Ranger,” which resulted in a $150 million write-down.
Rolling up his sleeves, Mr. Horn oversaw an extensive reworking of “Maleficent,” coming in on the weekend to sit in the editing room. He replaced a director already hired for a live-action “Cinderella” and vetoed the studio’s candidates to play the title role, instead giving it to Lily James, best known for playing Lady Rose MacClare on “Downton Abbey.” “Cinderella” is to be released on March 13.