loaded question: do you think the cancelled Batgirl movie will ever see the light of day?

Batgirl Leslie Grace

You may have heard that Warner Bros has, the company says, cancelled forever the release of Batgirl, starring Leslie Grace of In the Heights in the title role.

Darren Mooney at The Escapist has the best rundown I’ve come across yet of what happened, the conflicting explanations, and the likely fallout:

The film was reportedly so near completion that it had been shown to test audiences — even if the accounts of how those test audiences reacted vary dramatically depending on who is framing the story. Warner Bros. had already invested between $70M and $90M in the film that had been intended to stream on HBO Max. If anybody needed more proof that the streaming revolution promised by the pandemic was a failure, this would seem to be it.

Competing justifications for the cancellation have been offered, with commenters inevitably seizing on whichever argument validates the opinion they already hold. There have been various insinuations made about the movie’s quality. When challenged directly about the cancellation of Batgirl, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav simply stated, “We’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it.” Reports suggest test audiences compared it to “a bad TV show.”

In truth, it seems most likely that the movie was canceled for purely financial reasons. Zaslav could not justify sending a film with that budget to streaming and did not believe that it could survive in theaters. The merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery allowed the studio the opportunity to write the film off for tax purposes, a project funded by the old regime that didn’t fit the new company’s identity. The move allowed the studio to “save” between $15M and $20M at most on the project.

(There’s a lot more.)

Is this the death of streaming? Is this the end of superhero movies? Is it just a glitch in the pop-culture Matrix? Will Batgirl ever see the light of day? And if so, how?

(You can also discuss this at Substack or Patreon, if you prefer. You don’t need to be a paying subscriber to comment, but you will need to register with either site to do so.)

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RogerBW
RogerBW
patron
movie lover
Mon, Aug 08, 2022 8:39pm

I suspect that cancelling it and burying it largely unseen looks a lot better for the studio than a public failure would. (Especially with the tax writeoff.) Like the way that most Kickstarter projects from major players either succeed or get cancelled – rather than showing up on the stats as “didn’t reach its funding goal”.

It’s not clear to me from this whether the thing was originally intended for streaming – in which case why let the budget go to more than would be justified? – or whether they were looking at that as a second-best option after deciding it wouldn’t do well in theatres. But this isn’t a failure of a new business model, or any of that stuff: it’s just that the money well that’s the filmgoing public is not endless, and eventually even they get burned out on wall-to-wall superheroes.

Bluejay
Bluejay
film buff
reply to  RogerBW
Tue, Aug 09, 2022 1:33am

the money well that’s the filmgoing public is not endless, and eventually even they get burned out on wall-to-wall superheroes.

That could happen, but I don’t think it’s happened yet. “Superhero fatigue” has been a constant complaint/prediction since at least the first Avengers film. Yet the last Spider-Man film took in more than $1 billion worldwide — during a pandemic — and Thor 4 has just surpassed the US box office of Thor 3, and is closing in on its international box office as well. And I have a feeling Black Panther 2 and future offerings like Fantastic 4 (and whatever Marvel movie reintroduces the X-Men) won’t do too shabbily either. Granted, the Marvel side of things seems to more consistently appeal to audiences, while the DC films have been hit-or-miss.

RogerBW
RogerBW
patron
movie lover
reply to  Bluejay
Tue, Aug 09, 2022 10:39am

You may well be right. (As someone who doesn’t really care about superheroes at all, I come pre-fatigued.)

I still think that if people are feeling poor – and in the UK they definitely are – they may start getting selective. Combine that with (famously unreliable) test screenings and the studio could plausibly get the wind up.

RogerBW
RogerBW
patron
movie lover
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Aug 09, 2022 1:47pm

Thanks for the information.

So this could be Hollywood pulling in its horns and pandering to the sexist racist market (perhaps after seeing the Disney spat in Florida), who in my experience at least seem to overlap a lot with vocal superhero fans; or it could be customer fatigue at the fragmentation of the streaming market as each vendor tries to reserve things exclusively to its own platform, to make people subscribe to everything for the one thing they actually want. (Compare Spotify/iTunes; when someone tries for an exclusive release on their own special platform, everyone laughs at them. But at least piracy’s picking up again.)

Danielm80D
Danielm80
movie lover
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Aug 09, 2022 10:26pm

The cancellation has been reported widely enough that I’m wondering if it will turn out to be a form of promotion (planned or otherwise). If the movie had been released in a traditional way, it might have turned out to be an embarrassing misfire. But if it becomes a political cause, the studio will have people saying: We demand that you release this terrible movie! And every news story or online argument will be free publicity for the film.

last edited 5 months ago by Danielm80