EntertainmentWarner Bros. killed “Batgirl”: What brought the studio to...

Warner Bros. killed “Batgirl”: What brought the studio to this situation and what will happen to the future of HBO Max and DC?

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It was a direct shot to the spine. Imitating the famous – or infamous – scene from Alan Moore’s classic comic “The Killing Joke”, Warner Bros. announced that his almost finished film “batgirl” – starring Leslie Grace and directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah – will no longer see the light of day despite only being a couple of months away from its premiere. It is not the only victim, with the animated film “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” also sent to the doghouse, while weeks ago the company decided to eliminate popular shows from The CW channel such as “Roswell”, Legacies”, “Dynasty” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” passing to a better life.

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What happened so that Warner Bros., who along with Netflix and Disney is presented as one of the largest entertainment producers globally, chose to carry out such cruel pruning of its content? The answer to this question lies in its relatively recent merger with Discovery and its new CEO, David Zaslav.

the origin of the monster

Initially announced in May 2021, the merger between Discovery Inc. and WarnerMedia was made possible after the telecommunications giant AT&T decided to ditch the company – for which it paid approximately US$85 billion in 2018 – in an attempt to reduce its millionaire debts.

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The merger between the two entertainment giants finally took place on April 8, 2022, with Discovery CEO David Zaslav assuming the chairmanship of the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery.

The birth of this new corporation was not without its problems, and as part of the deal that led to its formation, Warner Bros. Discovery took on approximately $55 billion in debt. Thus, Zaslav seems to have wasted no time finding costs to cut, eliminating the CNN+ streaming service a month after its launch and canceling shows not only on The CW, but also on channels like TBS and TNT. His announced goal is to cut costs by $3 billion across all divisions of his company.

The situation was so traumatic that it was compared to the Red Wedding of “Game of Thrones” by veteran producer of The CW Julie Plec, known for leading successful projects on the channel such as “The Vampire Diaries”.

“Today is the Red Wedding on WBTV/CW. There is so much more to say but not today,” she wrote on May 12. “There will be a lot of thanks for the fans, cast and crew in future tweets. But today, we are in mourning.”

Other series such as “The Flash” were not canceled, but their near end was announced. Thus, the popular show of the fastest man in the world will culminate in 2023 with a ninth season reduced to only 13 episodes, putting the final nail on the Arrowverse that dominated television for so long.

the killing joke

But what nobody expected was the abrupt cancellation of “Batgirl”, announced on August 2. The film, scheduled to be released in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service, was in the process of production when its end was announced, with an amount invested between US$60 and 70 million to date.

“Batgirl” was one of the most interesting projects that Warner Bros. had in hand, since in addition to starring a Latin actress like Leslie Grace, the film also featured favorites from the world of superheroes like JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Michael Keaton returning to his role as Batman, as well as a prominent role for Brendon Fraser as the villainous Firefly.

Perhaps no one was more surprised by the cancellation than its own directors, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who said in a joint statement that they were “saddened and shocked by the news”: “We still can’t believe it. As directors, it is essential that our work is shown to the public, and although the film was far from finished, we wish that fans around the world had had the opportunity to see and enjoy the finished film for themselves.

The star of the tape, Leslie Grace, reacted highlighting the role played by the film team: “Following the recent news about our film ‘Batgirl’, I am proud of the love, hard work and intention that all of our amazing cast and tireless crew have put into this film over 7 months in Scotland. I feel blessed to have worked among absolute greats and forged lifelong relationships in the process.

The cancellation of “Batgirl” led to multiple speculations. Both The New York Post and Rolling Stone noted that the film did not fare as well in preliminary audience tests, with some comparing it to a “bad episode of a television series.” According to their articles, Warner Bros. was then between the decision to invest more money to try to fix the project or cut losses.

Deadline meanwhile points to an additional reason: taxes. Due to the current state of the company after its merger of Warner Bros. companies, Discovery has the opportunity to recover costs in projects that it sees as losses.

Actress Leslie Grace was cast as the next "Batgirl" in the now-canceled movie.  (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

The process is best explained in an IndieWire article: “Content costs may be amortized – or allocated a cost that is recognized by an entity over several years – over the expected useful life of the program or film. If there are years left on that term, a business can retire that distribution asset and use the balance of its remaining cost to offset taxable income elsewhere.

This has been the fate of not only “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt”, but also of several films that had already come out before on HBO Max such as “Moonshot”, “Superintelligence”, “The Witches”, “An American Pickle,” “Charm City Kings,” and Locked Down,” all of which have disappeared from the streaming service in recent months.

WarnerMedia has not confirmed any of the speculation, releasing a statement noting that the cancellation of “Batgirl” reflects a strategic change in our direction as it relates to the DC Universe and HBO Max.” Perhaps to dispel rumors of the film’s quality, they add: “Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actress and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We’re incredibly grateful to the makers of ‘Batgirl’ and ‘Scoob! Holiday Haunt’ and their respective casts and we look forward to collaborating with everyone again in the near future.”

More changes

HBO Max not only lives in danger of the disappearance of its content, but its days are numbered. This was revealed by David Zaslav during the second quarter 2022 earnings report on August 4, where he revealed that the streaming service will merge with Discovery + in the near future.

To be more exact, this merger – still without a name – will arrive in the United States in the summer of 2023 – between June and August in the northern hemisphere -, and then be launched in Latin America possibly the same year and other territories such as Europe. in 2024.

The announcement also appears to confirm reports of staff cuts, with The Wrap citing a 70% reduction in HBO Max’s workforce. While it hasn’t been confirmed so far that the mass layoffs will be that…massive, it is certainly a cause for concern for those who work for this company.

The reality show "Fixer Upper" will be one of the shows joining HBO Max.

What content can we expect on HBO Max in the coming months? ‘Realities’ like the ones made so popular by Discovery in recent years like “Fixer Upper”, “The Lost Kitchen” and “Restoration Road with Clint Harp”. In the meantime, we can expect less original content from HBO Max such as series such as “Tokyo Vice”, “Our Flag Means Death” and “Peacemaker”, although the latter seems to be safe based on what is reported. said its creator James Gunn.

During the announcement, Zaslav revealed that HBO Max and Discovery+ currently have a combined 92 million subscribers, and that his goal is to reach 130 million subscribers by 2025.

Assembling the League

Not everything revealed during the earnings report was concerning, with possible good news for DC Comics fans. And it is that Zaslav pointed out that there will be a new emphasis on the DC cinematic universe, calling this franchise one of the highest opportunities in his catalog. He also promised to emulate the model that has been made by Marvel Studios that has made its movies the filmic titan that it is today.

If you look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, they are known brands all over the planet and the ability to bring them all over the world with great stories is a great opportunity for us. We have done a reset. We have restructured the business that we are going to focus on. There will be a team with a ten year plan that will focus only on DC. It is very similar to the structure that Alan Horn and Bob Iger created to great effect with Kevin Feige at Disney.“, he pointed.

They added that they will seek to focus more on quality than quantity in their films. “We believe we can build a much stronger, long-term and sustainable growth business from DC. And as part of that we’re going to focus on quality, we’re not going to release any movies before they’re ready.”, he assured. “We’re not going to release a movie to make a good quarter, the focus is going to be ‘how do we make these movies in general as good as possible?’ DC is something we think we could do better, and we’re focusing on that now.”.

Part of this strategy seems to be the hiring of the executive Alan Horn, who was president and COO of Warner Bros. until 2013, bringing to the company successes such as “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Harry Potter” during his career. Before returning to Warner Bros., Horn worked at Disney, where he collaborated with Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and Pixar.

At the moment it is not known if the ‘reset’ of the DC Extended Universe will continue with the timeline already established, will use another one of “The Batman” by Matt Reeves or will mean a new beginning to the franchise. Despite this, at the moment it is still planned to release the films “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”, “Black Adam” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”.

Of which there is no news is of other announced projects such as “Blue Beetle”, “Zatanna”, “Static Shock” and “Supergirl”, with rumors indicating that this last film, starring Sasha Calle, could also disappear as “Batgirl” .

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Source: Elcomercio

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