Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslaw He addressed the company’s controversial decision this week Cancel publications “Bad girl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” during the company’s Q2 earnings call on Thursday.
When asked directly about getting the “Batgirl” ax, “We’re not going to start a movie until it’s ready,” Zaslav said during the Q&A portion of the call. “We’re not going to launch a movie in a quarter, and we’re not going to release a movie until we believe in it.”
During the presentation, Zaslav repeatedly pointed to the company’s DC superhero properties — including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman — as central to the company’s broader content strategy. To better marshal those properties, Zaslau cited his previously announced goal of putting together a team with “a 10-year plan focused solely on DC,” similar to the approach Disney took with Kevin Feige-led Marvel Studios. But he did not announce who will lead the team in the role of Feige.
“These are brands that are known everywhere in the world,” he said of the DC characters. “As part of that, we’re going to focus on quality. DC is something we think we can do better, and we’re focusing on that right now.
Zaslau repeatedly mentioned “quality” when discussing DC, insisting that “Batgirl” is not at the standard he believes is required for adaptations of the broader comic book property.
“The goal is to grow the DC brand, to grow the DC characters,” he said. “But our job is to protect the DC brand, and that’s what we’re going to do.
“Black Adam,” “Shazam! 2” and “The Flash” are “very excited” DC features.
“We’ve seen them and we think they’re fantastic and we think we can make them even better,” he said. (Jasla’s reference to “The Flash,” currently scheduled to debut in June 2023, is especially meaningful, as is star Ezra Miller. Faces multiple allegations of abuse and misconduct (Neither the actor nor the studio has publicly addressed it.)
The decision to shelve two nearly completed movies — including a superhero property with a $90 million budget — stunned the wider industry. On Wednesday, “Batgirl” directors Adil El Arbi and Bilal Falla (“Bad Boys for Life,” “Ms. Marvel”) issued a statement They were “saddened and shocked by the news” and star Leslie Grace said “He was proud of this film thanks to the love, hard work and purpose of all of our incredible cast and tireless crew.”
On Tuesday, Variety reported Following the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger, the company’s shift in strategy away from making movies exclusive to HBO Max, such as “Batgirl” and “Scoop!: Holiday Haunt,” was a key driver of the decision.
“This idea of expensive films going straight to streaming — we couldn’t find the economic case for it, we couldn’t find the economic value for it, so we’re making a strategic change,” Zaslav said during the Q&A.
He also addressed this shift during his opening remarks on the Q2 earnings call.
“We fully embrace the theatrical, which creates interest and demand, provides a great marketing tailwind, and creates word-of-mouth buzz as movies transition to streaming and beyond,” Zaslau said. “We have a different vision for releasing live streaming films and have taken some serious steps to adjust the previous strategy.”
During the presentation, CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels cited a strategy driven by previous leadership at WarnerMedia — namely, Jason Keeler and Ann Sarnoff — as not having “sufficient support” to bankroll “select direct-to-HBO Max movies.” He cited the “Wonder Twins” movie (which was in pre-production) and the nearly finished “Batgirl” and “Scoop!: Holiday Haunt” as “examples of streaming films that didn’t fit this new strategic approach.”
Wiedenfels said canceling those plans was a “difficult decision,” but the company is “committed to being disciplined about the structure that guides our comfortable investment to maximize returns.”
The company is said to be taking a tax write-off on both the films to offset the losses from canceling the films, citing a change in strategy after the merger, a strategy that was not addressed during the earnings call.
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