Warner Bros. axes $90-million ‘Batgirl’ movie for HBO Max

Warner Bros. has scrapped plans to release a near-complete “Batgirl” movie that was slated for streaming service HBO Max, according to two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The Burbank Film Studio had wrapped up filming on the DC Superhero spinoff, which cost an estimated $90 million to make.

But the film fell short of what the company wanted for its key comics franchise and no longer aligned with the studio’s film strategy, the sources said.

Batgirl was originally commissioned as a direct-to-stream film as part of a broader plan to leverage the DC franchise to grow HBO Max subscribers.

At the time, Warner Bros. was part of WarnerMedia owned by AT&T, run by Jason Kilar, who wanted to make several original films specifically for the direct-to-consumer platform. Kilar left the company before its merger with Discovery Inc. in a $43 billion deal completed this year.

Now Warner Bros. has a different corporate mandate as part of the new Warner Bros. Discovery, whose CEO David Zaslav has been open about his belief that movies perform better on streaming when they premiere exclusively in theaters for the first time.

With a production budget in the tens of millions of dollars, releasing Batgirl straight to stream made little financial sense, said a person close to the company. But the film, as written and produced, wasn’t big enough for a spectacle to merit a full theatrical run, either.

The film, in which “In the Heights” star Leslie Grace took on the title role, was conceived with the small screen in mind. And while $90 million is hardly pocket change, it’s far less than the $150 to $200 million studios typically spend to produce major superhero films before marketing costs. Matt Reeves’ The Batman had an estimated budget of $185 million and ran in theaters for 45 days before debuting for streaming.

Batgirl is directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who previously worked on the acclaimed Disney+ superhero series Ms. Miracles.” Alongside Grace, the cast included JK Simmons, Michael Keaton and Brendan Fraser.

Scratching a nearly finished film, especially one with such a high profile, is highly unusual. The decision not to release a film of this magnitude means that the company has to bear the costs. But one cut of the film was poorly tested in screenings, said another person familiar with the matter. Instead of spending extra money on a theatrical campaign, the company decided to write it down.

Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. Discovery representatives declined to comment.

The decision, first reported by the New York Post, comes as Warner Bros. Discovery prepared to report quarterly earnings this week. Zaslav has promised Wall Street $3 billion in cost savings from the merger, but one of those close to the company said scrapping Batgirl is not a money-saving measure. The company also has a “Scoob!” Sequel planned for HBO Max.

HBO and HBO Max combined reported 76.8 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter of 2022, making it one of Netflix’s and Disney+’s stronger competitors.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2022-08-02/warner-bros-axes-90-million-batgirl-movie-that-had-been-planned-for-hbo-max Warner Bros. axes $90-million ‘Batgirl’ movie for HBO Max

Sarah Ridley

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