Leslie Grace attends the Warner Bros. premiere of “The Suicide Squad” at The Landmark Westwood on August 02, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Axelle / farmer-griffin | Movie Magic | Getty Images
Investors are turning to Warner Bros. Discovery for details on its streaming strategy as the newly merged company reports second-quarter results after the market close on Thursday.
You got a big tip earlier this week.
The company announced on Tuesday that it would be shelving its direct-to-stream DC film Batgirl, surprising fans and offering a glimpse into the new no-nonsense era under recently installed CEO David Zaslav.
Zaslav took the helm in April and has prioritized cost-cutting measures and attempted to realign the company’s content strategy. Unlike former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, Zaslav wants the company’s high-budget films to be released in theaters and not on its streaming service.
The decision also raised questions about the future of other HBO Max film and television projects, as many subscribers took to social media and feared their favorite programs might be next on the chopping block.
While Batgirl had a more modest budget than its theatrical counterparts – around $90 million after costs were boosted by Covid protocols – Warner Bros. Discovery, a newly formed merger between Warner Media and Discovery, has classified its books by location combed through where money can be saved. The cancellation of the Batgirl film allows the company to take a tax write-off to help reduce the company’s overall debt.
The film wrapped production in March and was in the early stages of editing by director duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (“Bad Boys for Life,” “Ms Marvel”), but will not be released on the company’s streaming in theaters premiered or sold to another studio if the company elects to write off for tax purposes.
The film’s burial also saves Warner Bros. Discovery potential marketing costs and any back-end payouts in original film deals that may have predated the merger.
Well-known actors are often paid after a film’s release based on box office earnings or viewership. And “Batgirl” was joined by some big names: Michael Keaton reprized his role as Batman, JK Simmons was cast as Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Brendan Fraser was tapped to portray villain Firefly.
“Although the explanation given for the scrapping of ‘Batgirl’ The changing strategies regarding feature films releasing directly to streaming platforms still seems like a remarkable decision considering how far along production concerns had progressed,” said Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University and pop culture expert.” Demolish your house just before you pay off the mortgage.
The decision also appears to offer “at least some judgment” on the film’s quality, Thompson said, as Warner Bros. Discovery doesn’t see a future for it in either streaming or theatrical releases.
With Batgirl in such an early stage of post-production, further editing could have addressed issues with the film in time for its planned debut in late 2022.
While stopping the film may be a financial decision, it comes with a social cost. Not only were DC Comics fans disappointed, many were also wondering why the company scrapped a project helmed by an Afro-Latina star, Leslie Grace.
Warner Bros. Discovery has already come under fire for failing to openly address the ongoing allegations against The Flash star Ezra Miller.