In a move that rattled Hollywood, Warner Bros has axed the “Batgirl” film planned for HBO Max, opting to shelve the US$90 million film as the reorganised studio revamps its approach to streaming and DC Comics films.
The decision was highly unusual for such a high-priced and nearly finished movie. But the studio ultimately decided “Batgirl" did not merit either a streaming debut or a theatrical release, and has instead opted to entirely write off the film starring “In the Heights” star Leslie Grace as Batgirl and co-starring Michael Keaton – returning as Batman – JK Simmons and Brendan Fraser. It was directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Production wrapped in April.
Warner Bros' decision, one without any obvious parallel in Hollywood history, sent shockwaves through the industry.
When a big-budget movie does not meet a studio's expectations, it is typically sold off or dumped quietly with little fanfare. “Batgirl”, greenlit before WarnerMedia's merger with Discovery Inc, will instead simply not see the light of day after reportedly poor test screenings.
“We are saddened and shocked by the news. We still can't believe it,” El Arbi and Fallah said in a statement Wednesday. “As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will, if God wills."
The directors signed their statement, posted on Instagram, “Batgirl For Life”.
Under new Warner Bros Discovery chief executive David Zaslav, Warner Bros is shifting its strategy on film releases and trimming costs. Under previous chief executive Jason Kilar and partly as a pandemic response, the studio implemented day-and-date releases in 2021, opening films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. Other films, like “Batgirl," were produced solely for HBO Max.
This year, Warner Bros. has returned to exclusive theatrical windows for at least 45 days before sending movies to HBO Max. While “Batgirl” is not as pricey as many superhero films, which typically cost US$150-200 million to make, it is a bigger budget movie for an HBO Max title. Zaslav has maintained larger budgeted movies are best served by a theatrical rollout. But marketing a movie like “Batgirl” for that kind of release would require tens of millions more. (AP)