One of the costliest blunders made by the near-century-old studio, the film has eaten up months of effort, Covid-related delays, and $90 million+ only to be unceremoniously tossed out. Is this just corporate selfishness at play, or a wise business move from the studio’s new CEO?
In a shocker that’s flushed over $90 million down the drain, Warner Bros. recently announced that they’d pull the plug on DC flick Batgirl and added insult to injury by not even discussing the move with the actors and directors of the film.
According to the New York Post, sources claimed that the scrapped movie’s creative team were completely in the dark about the sudden move despite interest from the fanbase regarding Leslie Grace’s first modern live-action take on the character, Michael Keaton’s return to the role of Bruce Wayne, and Brandan Fraser’s take on classic Bat-villain, Firefly.
“They had no idea the movie was being shelved,” added a film industry source. “That’s a giant problem.”
Lead actor Grace shared an Instagram post detailing her thanks for all the cast and crew members she developed a relationship with during the film’s 7-month shooting in Scotland.
Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah also shared a joint Instagram post although theirs was a bit less positive than Grace’s.
“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.”
The film, which was initially announced as far back as March 2017 in conjunction with Joss Whedon, has already completed principal photography and a large portion of post-production work, where CGI, sound, and other details were to be added. This drew further shock from Hollywood, where industry veterans described Warner Bros. Decision as ‘unprecedented’, especially regarding the amount of time, effort, and money that went into the project.
Warner Bros. themselves have released a statement. “The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson said, adding that Grace is “an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance.”
As per the initial New York Post report, the film fell prey to overwhelmingly poor responses from test audiences. As films — especially big franchise efforts such as Batgirl — require large amounts of capital to market and promote, it seems that WB have simply chosen to cut their losses in a project they don’t feel confident in. All of this was made worse by Warner Bros. co-chair Mike De Luca, who was said to be ‘ill-equipped to deal with a highly visible situation as rough and embarrassing as this one.’
“He’s famous for his complete inability to deliver bad news,” an industry source said. “He is confrontation-averse. A scared little bunny.”
Ultimately, Batgirl appears to have fallen victim to a change in corporate strategy after a huge $43m merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery. The studio has recently redoubled efforts to focus on big-name, theatrical releases such as Black Adam and Shazam! 2. Batgirl, on the other hand, seems to be caught in limbo — not high-quality enough for the full-beans DC treatment, while simultaneously too expensive to profitably launch on streaming services.
Spearheading this ‘new charge’ for DC characters is the new head for Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav — who deftly chose to avoid the estimated $30 million marketing costs and potential brand damage in favour of tax write-offs, possibly to the tune of a staggering $70 million.
He could have been nicer to the cast and crew, though. I guess at the end of the day, business means business — even if it means killing a $90 million film.
Lead Image: Warner Bros.