Ms. Dakhil, however, decided to investigate for herself. “I made a concerted effort to get to know Kareem and have been pleasantly surprised,” she said. “He is brimming over with high levels of EQ” — emotional intelligence — “and yet he doesn’t pretend to know everything. He’s curious and listens. And most of all, I am convinced that he really does love movies.”
Movies have been a passion for Mr. Daniel since childhood. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where his mother was a nurse and father a professor. He spent most Saturdays at the Evergreen Plaza multiplex, once taking in back-to-back screenings of “The Empire Strikes Back.” When it came to picking a career, however, his parents insisted on practicality — hence his dutiful decision to study electrical engineering at Stanford University.
At Disney, he is known for peppering conversations with movie lines, sometimes playfully testing subordinates to guess their origin. He collects original movie posters. Over dinner with a reporter, he discussed the plot intricacies of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” about a couturier in 1950s London, and recited lines from “The Breakfast Club” and “The Color of Money.”
He has attended the Sundance Film Festival 21 times. “He sees more movies at Sundance than almost anyone, and he does it because he loves it,” said Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production.
Much has been made, both inside and outside of Disney, about the ways in which Mr. Chapek’s 2020 restructuring took away power from some (the people running the company’s moviemaking and television production divisions) and gave it to others (Mr. Daniel). Not helping has been confusion in the broader industry about how it all works.
Under the new setup, Mr. Daniel’s group sets a spending budget for Disney’s content factories. Using data and research, his teams also determine what type of content is needed (genre, length, targeted demographics) to drive growth on the company’s various platforms. “We share that with them so that they can go create against those needs,” Mr. Daniel said. “We don’t go to a hyper sense of specificity, of course, because we want to inform the creative process but not try to algorithmically program.”