‘Batgirl’ shelved: Warner Bros. CEO Discovery defends its decision

The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav discussed the company’s controversial decision to cancel the releases of “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” this week during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Thursday.

“We’re not going to launch a movie until it’s ready,” Zaslav said during the Q&A portion of the call, when asked directly if “Batgirl” got the ax. . “We’re not going to release a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to release a movie unless we believe in it.”

During the presentation, Zaslav repeatedly highlighted the company’s DC superhero properties – including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman – as central to the company’s broader content strategy. To better bring these properties together, Zaslav cited his previously announced goal of building a team with a “DC-only 10-year plan,” similar to the approach Disney took with Kevin Feige-led Marvel Studios. But he did not announce who would lead this team.

“These are brands that are known all over the world,” he said of the DC characters. “And within that, we are going to focus on quality. DC is something we think we can improve on and we’re focusing on it now.

Zaslav mentioned “quality” several times when discussing DC, strongly implying that “Batgirl” was not up to a standard he feels is necessary for adaptations of the broader property of comics.

“The goal is to grow the DC brand, to grow the DC characters,” he said. “But also, our job is to protect the DC brand. And that’s what we’re going to do.

Zaslav’s name ticked off “Black Adam”, “Shazam! 2” and “The Flash” as DC features he’s “very excited about”.

“We’ve seen them, we think they’re great and we think we can make them even better,” he said. (Zaslav’s mention of “The Flash,” currently slated for release in June 2023, is particularly significant, as star Ezra Miller faces multiple allegations of abuse and misconduct that neither the actor nor the studio have addressed publicly.)

The decision to suspend two near-completed feature films — including a $90 million superhero property — stunned the entire industry. “Batgirl” directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (“Bad Boys for Life,” “Ms. Marvel”) released a statement on Wednesday that they were “saddened and shocked by the news,” and star Leslie Grace said she was “proud of the love, hard work and intention that all of our amazing actors and tireless crew put into this film.

Tuesday, Variety reported that the main driver of the decision was the company’s shift in strategy away from making HBO Max-exclusive feature films, as was the case with “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” a sequel to the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery.

“This idea of ​​expensive movies going straight to streaming – we can’t find an economic justification for it, we can’t find any economic value to it, so we’re making a strategic shift,” Zaslav said during the Q&A- answers.

He also addressed the change during his opening remarks on the second quarter earnings call.

“We will fully embrace cinema as we believe it creates interest and demand, provides excellent marketing tailwind and generates word of mouth buzz as films move to streaming and beyond,” said said Zaslav. “We have a different take on the wisdom of direct movie streaming, and we’ve taken aggressive steps to of course correct the previous strategy.”

During the presentation, CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels cited the strategy pursued by previous WarnerMedia executives – namely Jason Kilar and Ann Sarnoff – to finance “select films directly on HBO Max” as lacking “sufficient support” to last. . He cited the “Wonder Twins” movie (which was in pre-production) and the nearly completed “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” as “examples of streaming movies that don’t fit this new strategic approach.” .

Wiedenfels said canceling these projects was a “difficult decision,” but the company is “committed to being disciplined about a framework that guides our comfortable investment for maximum return.”

To offset losses from the films’ cancellation, the company reportedly took a tax cut on both films, citing a change in strategy as a result of the merger, but this strategy was not discussed during the interview. call for results.

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