The Egyptian Daily | Entertainment Column: Canceling “Batgirl” is bad for everyone
In the film industry, it’s easy to get stuck on “what ifs”. This is especially true today, when hundreds of projects are greenlit each month, just to find a large chunk of them never get completed.
In our currently superhero-obsessed industry, there are plenty of movies that never see the light of day. More recently, after “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” fans have been obsessed with rumors of Sam Raimi’s long-cancelled “Spider-Man 4,” as well as the subsequently canceled “The Amazing Spider-Man.” by Andrew Garfield. 2” with fans even asking to have them made now, decades later.
We’ve even seen fans clamoring for a tangible product, in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” a movie that everyone agrees would never have happened unless fans demanded it.
Going even further back, most people have at some point come across the infamous photo of Nicholas Cage donning the Superman costume for the canceled Tim Burton-directed feature “Superman Lives.” A film that has been canned since the 90s still sparks obsession with what it could have been, even going so far as to have a documentary made about the film. One thing connects all of the aforementioned films (aside from “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”), they never made it past the pre-production stages.
But what if those films were fully shot and even well into post-production? People would be even more eager to get their hands on the thing. Such was the case for Warner Bros. Studios’ recently canned “Batgirl,” which was slated for release on HBO Max later this year.
This caused an immediate uproar on the internet, with fans immediately imagining ways to spread the film, even going so far as to suggest employees working on the film’s post-production leak everything online. But why did it happen? What would the studio have to gain by canceling a film that has already cost a budget close to $90 million?
For starters, Warner Bros. just had a massive change in the direction of the company, with its new CEO David Zaslav. Variety reported that he decided to cancel the film because it didn’t align with the interests of a change the company is making to prioritize theatrical releases over streaming.
This new direction wants to do higher budget projects comparable to Marvel Studios’ current model. Reports indicate that the $90 million the film was unlikely to recoup its budget with a theatrical release, nor an HBO Max release. Some sources speculate that this decision is purely financial, as it would likely be more profitable for the company to get a tax break for not releasing him.
Zaslav has made it clear that he runs the business with a focus on profit and business strategies over creativity. Which isn’t a surprise or even illogical, given that Warner Bros. is, in fact, a multi-billion dollar business. But to go so far as to consider the work of hundreds of people, not even worth publishing, so far into production, and take a fat check rather than let the team’s creative efforts be even slightly validated. , is simply insulting.
While $90 million isn’t to be overlooked, for a company worth over $33 billion, you’d think they could afford to earn a little less than they wanted to respect the efforts of the filmmakers involved. .
The events surrounding this unprecedented move by Warner Bros. are emblematic of a huge problem in today’s film industry, still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Most major studios try to compete with Disney, with each film costing around $100 million or more. This then creates an economic model that suggests that if a film does not bring in astronomical sums, close to a billion dollars, it is not a success.
A recent example can be seen in Disney-Pixar’s “Lightyear,” which grossed over $200 million at the box office this summer. But it’s still considered a big flop for the studio, as its production budget was also $200 million. The business model of spending these insane sums on every movie and trying to position them all as huge events that no one can miss is simply unsustainable. Even for Disney, a company with 52% of the industry’s market share, you can’t expect every movie to work this way, even when you force them around pre-existing properties and nostalgia.
Warner Bros. Clearly trying to emulate the Disney model, especially with its superhero properties, but that’s not what the industry needs or people want. The DC arm of the studio was just beginning to take shape to deliver creative and unique takes on the genre, offering things Marvel Studios wasn’t, with films like ‘The Suicide Squad’, ‘The Batman’ and ‘Joker’ lately. years. Without creating a universe of unbearable precision, they provided films that were more motivated by the creative freedom of their filmmakers. But with the change of direction and the decision of “Batgirl”, this exciting time is quickly snuffed out.
While many hope that “Batgirl” will still make its way into the limelight in some form, it will likely remain a watershed moment for the streaming industry and the superhero genre in general. With direct-to-streaming movies having budgets close to $90 million and shows like “Stranger Things” and the upcoming “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” approaching or exceeding budgets by $300 million per season, it also becomes a clearly unsustainable pattern.
The industry’s emphasis on each release tying into already popular properties creates an expectation that releases will be massive moments that everyone needs to stop and watch. But when these “events” happen three times a month, the market becomes oversaturated and each subsequent release becomes less and less exciting. And when companies like Warner Bros. clearly indicate that these projects, however massive they may seem, can be launched in the blink of an eye, it is difficult to be optimistic.
Staff reporter Zaden Dennis can be reached on [email protected] and you can find his other reviews at letterboxd.com/Zadenator.
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