Yesterday afternoon saw the shocking announcement that the upcoming DC film Batgirl, starring Leslie Grace in the title role, Brendan Fraser as Firefly, J.K. Simmons reprising his role as Commissioner Jim Gordon from Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and Michael Keaton reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman from director Tim Burton’s Batman films, was being canceled and shelved by Warner Bros. Discovery, and that the studio has no intention whatsoever of releasing the film in theaters or streaming it on HBO Max. There was some doubt as to how legitimate this news was, considering that it was first published in the New York Post, which has a reputation for outlandish headlines that accompany the problematic and unreadable dogsh-t that is their articles. But once this news about Batgirl was confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood, it didn’t take very long for lots of people to ask one question about this particular decision. And that question was: “What kind of f-ckery is this?!”
From the New York Post:
The reportedly $70 million movie (the source said the budget was actually more than $100 million), which was doing test screenings for audiences in anticipation of a late 2022 debut, would rank among the most expensive cinematic castoffs ever.
Those tests were said to be so poorly received by moviegoers that the studio decided to cut its losses and run, for the sake of the brand’s future. It’s a DC disaster.
“They think an unspeakable ‘Batgirl’ is going to be irredeemable,” the source said.
Shelving a multimillion-dollar effort would not be unusual for Zaslav, a ruthless cost-cutter. Remember, he’s the same guy who gave the $300 million streaming service CNN+ the ax just days after its splashy launch because it didn’t snare enough subscribers.
The budget-conscious CEO, according to Variety, has split WB into multiple segments, including a reorganized “DC-based film production” group. With that in mind, WB is said to be searching for a head honcho to run the flailing DC Extended Universe and whip it into coherent shape, like Kevin Feige did with the far more successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is owned by Disney. The current president of DC film production is Walter Hamada. Warner Bros. Discovery will report their Q2 earnings and announce future plans on Thursday.
From Deadline Hollywood:
As for the exact reason behind the shelving, sources say the film did not fall in line with the new strategy being implemented by DC Films as well as HBO Max. The studio is looking to make theatrical tentpoles with budgets at $90 million-plus, and from early footage seen this did not fall into place with that model. (Batgirl was greenlighted at $70 million budget.)
The writer of this article, Justin Kroll, also shared this tweet right after said article was published.
A minute after this story posted got a call from a rival studio exec who was floored by move. "Worked in this town for three decades and this is some unprecedented shit right here." https://t.co/A3aBLPulWz— Justin Kroll (@krolljvar) August 2, 2022
It was also revealed that Batgirl wasn’t the only upcoming film to be shut down by Warner Bros. Discovery. Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, the sequel to the 2020 animated film Scoob!, was also shelved indefinitely, despite the fact that, much like Batgirl, it had completed filming and was in the middle of post-production. So to hear that two films were being pulled right off of the track just as they were about to cross the finish line was both frustrating and infuriating for not just the fans, but for the cast and crew members of these films. There have been no comments from anyone connected to Batgirl (not from Leslie Grace; or the film’s screenwriter, Christina Hodson, who also wrote Birds of Prey; or the film’s directors, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who directed Bad Boys For Life, as well as the series premiere and the season finale of Ms. Marvel), but the makers of Scoob!: Holiday Haunt (including Paul Dini, who is largely known for his groundbreaking work on Batman: The Animated Series) have not been shy in letting the world know how hard they worked on this film, and how disappointed they were about Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision.
I worked months on this project, almost had a burnout because of it and after animation was OVER !!! I left the company for a new adventure.— Bakurio (@Bakurio_) August 3, 2022
But learning this today, on internet, is a knife in my heart… Don't care too much about your work people, it will only end badly… https://t.co/QejPc7lbFC
"Shit next" indeed. Yes, I'm co-writer, but also, why cancel a 95% finished holiday movie this close to Fall, when you're guaranteed kids watching it from right after Halloween until at least New Years? Makes no business sense esp. as both kids & parents dug the WIP screening. https://t.co/SsRHUydSM5— Paul_Dini (@Paul_Dini) August 3, 2022
I’m very sorry to share this sad news. I LOVED working on this, and just did another session as Young Shaggy last week and the film looked just about complete. It was such a joy and so many people worked so hard. 😢 https://t.co/HToGPVAR9Q— Iain Armitage (@IainLoveTheatre) August 3, 2022
According to Michael Kurinsky, the director of 'SCOOB!:HOLIDAY HAUNT'says that the crew was very close to wrapping the film up and animation had been completed that past Friday. They still needed to do lightings and stuff. #ScoobyDoo pic.twitter.com/tyssFh9HKG— Cartoon Cosmic News (@thecartoonnews) August 2, 2022
For those of you who are curious about Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, and would like to know more about it, here is the synopsis, courtesy of Bloody Disgusting:
The HBO Max-exclusive holiday film would’ve followed the young version of the Mystery Incorporated gang. The plot synopsis: “To celebrate Scooby Doo’s first Christmas, 10-year-old Shaggy and the gang take him to a holiday-themed resort owned by Fred’s favorite Uncle Ned. When the park is beset by a ghostly haunting, the kids must solve a 40-year-old mystery to save the resort and show Scooby the true meaning of Christmas.”
The voice cast for Holiday Haunt includes Frank Welker, Iain Armitage, Ariana Greenblatt, McKenna Grace, Pierce Gagnon, Mark Hamill, Cristo Fernandez, Michael McKean, Andre Braugher, and Ming-Na Wen. Michael Kurinsky and Bill Haller directed from a script by Paul Dini and Tony Cervone.
Much of the cast reprised their roles from 2020’s Scoob!, which told the never-before told stories of Scooby-Doo’s origins and the greatest mystery in the career of the group known as Mystery Inc.
The 2020 film revealed how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world.
There has been some theorizing online that the softer-than-expected weekend box-office for the animated film DC League of Super-Pets played a large part in this decision about Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt made by new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav. But as it turned out, the reasons for both films (particularly Batgirl) being shelved turned out to be even worse.
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the most likely reason: taxes.
“Batgirl” found itself on the bad end of [Warner Brothers’ new direction], apparently neither big enough to feel worthy of a major theatrical release nor small enough to make economic sense in an increasingly cutthroat streaming landscape. Spending the money to expand the scope of “Batgirl” for theaters — plus the $30 million to $50 million needed to market it domestically and the tens of millions more needed for a global rollout — could have nearly doubled spending on the film, and insiders say that was a non-starter at a company newly focused on belt-tightening and the bottom line. (Spokespeople for Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment for this story.)
Releasing the movie on HBO Max would seem to be the most obvious solution. Instead, the company has shelved “Batgirl” — along with the “Scoob!” sequel — and several sources say it will almost certainly take a tax write-down on both films, seen internally as the most financially sound way to recoup the costs (at least, on an accountant’s ledger). It could justify that by chalking it up to a post-merger change of strategy.
Doing so, however, would mean that Warner Bros. cannot monetize either movie — no HBO Max debut, no sale to another studio.
Yes, you read all of that correctly.
And to learn that months, if not years, of hard work by cast and crew members of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt, will never see the light of day because of tax-related reasons? I wouldn’t blame you if your reaction to all of this has you looking like Wee-Bey from The Wire right about now.
There’s also been talk that it’s probably not just tax-related reasons as to why Batgirl has gotten the ax, but because of David Zaslav and his ego when it comes to him running things at Warner Bros.
It’s no coincidence that there are anonymous tipsters leaking to the press that the movie was awful. It’s unconfirmable information that makes Zaslav look like a Very Smart Executive who saved the company from an embarrassing failure, whether that’s true or not.— Dan Murrell (@MurrellDan) August 2, 2022
But a $90 million bath on a movie that’s already shot? Holy shit. That’s a new level. You could make money putting a work print on HBO Max. This isn’t about money. It’s about power and letting everyone know who’s really in charge.— Dan Murrell (@MurrellDan) August 2, 2022
Bear in mind that this isn’t the first time that HBO Max has removed a film from their release schedule with little to no explanation. Last Friday was supposed to bring the premiere of House Party, the remake to the classic 1990 teen comedy of the same name starring Kid ‘n Play, Tisha Campbell, and Martin Lawrence. The remake was produced by SpringHill Entertainment, the production company run by Lebron James and Maverick Carter; it starred Jacob Latimore and Tosin Hall; and its screenplay was written by Stephen Glover and Jamal Olori, who are both on the writing staff for the FX series Atlanta. And yet…there was no premiere of House Party on HBO Max last Friday, and there has been no reason given so far as to why its premiere was postponed, when it will be rescheduled, and if it will actually be rescheduled to be seen by the general public.
As for Batgirl not being allowed to be shown on the big or small screen? For many people (especially for fans on DCEU Twitter), this was one more sign that Warner Bros. Discovery has no actual plans for what to do with the DCEU, and little to no respect for the cinematic universe or the artists who work to help bring it to life in live-action form. From Batman v. Superman losing a crucial half-hour of footage that was restored in the film’s Ultimate Edition on Blu-ray; to Suicide Squad writer/director David Ayer being kicked out of the editing room by Warner Bros. during post-production so that a movie-trailer company could finish editing the final cut of the film that was seen in theaters; to the rumors that the studio wanted the “No Man’s Land” scene removed from Wonder Woman; to hiring Joss Whedon to complete production of Justice League after Zack Snyder stepped down due to a family tragedy, which only resulted in on-set abuse and the Whedon-made theatrical version of the film not only being an unwatchable mess that failed with both critics and audiences, but it wasn’t the savior of the DCEU that Warner Bros. was hoping for; to Ray Fisher’s treatment by Warner Bros. after he attempted to speak out about the on-set abuse on the Justice League set and how it was largely ignored and swept under the rug by The Powers That Be; Henry Cavill and Mission: Impossible - Fallout writer/director Christopher McQuarrie approaching Warner Bros. about the two of them working together on a Superman film, only to have that pitch rejected, despite the ongoing curiosity by fans as to when there will be other Superman films that feature Cavill as the Man of Steel; the cancellation of director Ava DuVernay’s New Gods, as well as the Aquaman spin-off The Trench, which was rumored to not actually be about the merciless creatures of The Trench, but was secretly going to be a spin-off centered around Aquaman’s arch-nemesis, Black Manta (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II); Ann Sarnoff informing the public via an interview with Variety that Zack Snyder’s Justice League would be the completion of his work in the DCEU, as well as Warner Bros. executives anonymously informing the New York Times that the film was a one-off, a storytelling cul-de-sac, and that there would be no sequels or spin-offs following its release, despite the film’s epilogue planting numerous seeds for the possibilities of sequels and spin-offs; and so on and so on.
As much as it may seem like grasping at straws, and crafting conspiracy theories to act as a life raft to keep from drowning, there was one possibility that was brought up on Twitter:
is the "we are not releasing BATGIRL" news a psyop to make us all completely rabid about seeing BATGIRL— karen han (@karenyhan) August 2, 2022
Sounds ridiculous, but to those who have paid close attention to how Warner Bros. operates, especially when it comes to the DCEU, it’s not that unbelievable for them to try something like this in order to gauge interest and see whether or not a Batgirl film is something that people would actually want to see. Last year brought the announcement that author/journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates was hired by Warner Bros. and Bad Robot, the production company run by J.J. Abrams, to write a new Superman film for the DCEU. That film was intended to focus on a Black version of the Man of Steel, most likely Calvin Ellis or Val-Zod, and with the hope that he’d be played by Michael B. Jordan. And what ended up happening was social media being very loud and very clear about not wanting a new version of Superman, but wanting to see more of Henry Cavill as Superman. Especially since this news of Coates being hired for a movie about a Black version of Superman seemed like yet another attempt by Warner Bros. to go, “Don’t listen to that Ray Fisher! We like Black people here at Warner Bros.! Blacks rule!”
And not surprisingly, Twitter was not shy in letting it be known how they felt about Batgirl being shelved unexpectedly by Warner Bros. Discovery:
Warner Bros is a joke. The Batgirl team does not deserve this. #SAVEBATGIRL.— Black Canary Updates (@BIackCanaryFilm) August 2, 2022
A line that should never be crossed has been crossed, this is extremely offensive towards the fans & the cast, everyone who worked on this film. My heart literally hurts for them. pic.twitter.com/Q5gofGidWw
Feeling for my WB and HBO Max fam. Those who lost jobs/projects publicly and privately this year. Hoping we can see your finished work one day. Watching my own shows get axed the last few years I can say this business is not for the faint of heart.— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) August 3, 2022
And yet, your story continues.
Being Latinx means continually waving your hands under a touchless faucet that doesn't register your existence. https://t.co/Co7wBLpJze— Juan Carlos Fernandez (@obijuanca) August 2, 2022
Leslie Grace was incredible in IN THE HEIGHTS. BATGIRL was supposed to be her chance to become a bonafide movie star. WB is taking that away from us. And I will not stand for it. #ReleaseTheBatgirlMovie pic.twitter.com/gaGNAdJh7E— Ezra Cubero (@EzraCubero) August 2, 2022
Several cast and crew members had months of their hard work and potential a career-changing opportunity in their life was just wasted, but these Alex Jones sympathizers are happy because "YaY nO WOKE POC LeAd iN mY sUpErHeRo MoViE"— Fandom Menace Posting Their Ls Online (@FandomMenaceLs) August 3, 2022
fuck yall #Batgirl pic.twitter.com/ojj5EOvYP9
Regardless of how you feel about the DCEU, the cancellation of #Batgirl sucks. Leslie Grace was robbed of her moment. Everyone else involved, including Adil and Bilal, deserved better. It’s just more proof that Warner Bros. has no plan. 🤦🏽♂️— Dempsey Pillot (@DempseyPillot) August 2, 2022
I’m choosing not to believe this until more time passes and further details are revealed because something like this never happens and if it’s real, it’s not going down quietly without several lawsuits😳😬 https://t.co/CuLWUA0DjQ— Diana Prince’s Boot (@sansalance) August 3, 2022
We are living in a society where Morbius was in theaters not once, but TWICE, and Batgirl can’t even get an HBO Max debut.— Kasey (@RawbertBeef) August 3, 2022
It is ridiculous to cancel a movie only because it isn't a "EVENT" movie. Do you really want to go up against Marvel? If that's the case, why do you hesitate to introduce new characters? This is incredibly foolish and disrespectful to the Batgirl team #ReleaseTheBatgirlMovie pic.twitter.com/bEPTdYNDG4— The Flash Movie Updates ⚡ (@FlashMovieLeaks) August 2, 2022
Everyone hears a million different things out here when something test screens (rarely is audience response unanimous), but the long and short of it is: there is absolutely no way BATGIRL was supposedly so abysmal that it couldn’t ever be released in ANY form. That’s unheard of.— Zoë Rose Bryant (@ZoeRoseBryant) August 2, 2022
If you needed a perfect illustration of how studios see their superhero films as product rather than cinema — you know, like Scorsese said, to the misplaced consternation of millions of fans — this BATGIRL story is it.— Guy Lodge (@GuyLodge) August 3, 2022
It wasn’t too long ago that when it was announced that there would be a multibillion-dollar merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery, many people saw it as a sign that the once-beloved studio would be getting back on the right track. And that David Zaslav, the Discovery CEO who would soon be calling the shots at Warner Bros. would not only rebuild relationships with actors, writers, and directors who were left feeling upset and disappointed by the studio’s sudden but understandable decision to release the studio’s 2021 slate of films in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, but would be the savior of the DCEU and treat the cinematic universe with the kind of respect and efficiency that Kevin Feige has used to his benefit and that of Walt Disney Studios when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those hopes have not only been dashed, but it has left some people wondering what film(s) will be next in getting the same ruthless treatment as Batgirl?
Will Blue Beetle, another upcoming DC film centered around a superhero played by a Latino actor, never be seen in theaters or on HBO Max as well? We got news last year that Jurnee Smollett would be reprising her role as Black Canary in a solo film written by Lovecraft Country showrunner/executive producer Misha Green, but will Zaslav put a stop to that as well? (If so, it would be even more bad news for Green, whose upcoming Tomb Raider sequel with Alicia Vikander returning as Lara Croft was just canceled, due to MGM losing the rights to the franchise) What about the live-action version of Static Shock produced by Michael B. Jordan? Or the Zatanna film that’s being written by Promising Young Woman writer/director Emerald Fennell? Hell, will the much-anticipated sequel to The Batman have to deal with cost-cutting and micromanagement from Zaslav, despite the fact that it was a massive success both critically and financially? It certainly wouldn’t make The Batman director/co-writer Matt Reeves very happy, especially since he was insistent on being left alone and being given creative control to craft his adaptation of The Dark Knight as he saw fit without any of the studio’s usual behind-the-scenes interference.
The irony of borrowing a quote from a film that highlights how IT ISN'T ALWAYS ABOUT MONEY. https://t.co/7HIcht6xHE— Paul (@PaulEnicola) August 3, 2022
This is appalling, and it's what happens when the people who run a media company crawl so far up their own hindquarters about "strategy" that they forget that actual humans put time and effort into making a movie. https://t.co/NJw09XbQ3N— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) August 2, 2022
In my experience, “creatives” do pay attention and remember which companies treat their peers well and which ones don’t. They may not ever share this info with execs directly, but decisions that are hostile to the creative community still have a major silent impact to that studio— Keith Calder (@keithcalder) August 2, 2022
Creatives are going to start thinking twice about working with WBD moving forward. Why would they work hard on a movie only for it to be cancelled right before it's done? Makes sense for them to take their talents elsewhere.— BSL 🔜 #TIFF22 🧩 (@bigscreenleaks) August 3, 2022
At least several variations of the same tweet were seen in response to this Batgirl news: How, why, and how is it that Batgirl will possibly never see the light of day, but The Flash, which has been swamped in controversy for what feels like forever and a day (and which also features Michael Keaton returning as Bruce Wayne/Batman) due to the antics of its lead actor, Ezra Miller, is still expected to get a full theatrical release in June of 2023? There are still some fans on Twitter who believe these headlines to be nothing more than a smear campaign against Miller because of an Instagram video where they practically declared war on members of the Ku Klux Klan, and because there always seems to be more detailed information that comes to the surface with each news story about Miller and his exploits, but for people who felt that The Flash should’ve been the film to be shelved or sent to HBO Max instead, the seemingly unfair treatment was enough to have them wanting to flip every damn table in sight.
Outside of the DCEU’s future looking like a giant question mark, there’s still the matter of what this news has done to the reputation of Warner Bros. Discovery. As Justin Kroll pointed out, the studio’s decision to just flat-out cancel the release of a $90 million comic-book film that had completed production and still needed to add some finishing touches, was ridiculous and is rarely the kind of move that is ever seen in Hollywood. And if other movie studios are left flabbergasted at such a decision, what are actors, writers, and directors thinking right now at the possibility of working with Warner Bros. Discovery, and possibly having their months and years of hard work locked away in a vault to never be seen by audiences? It’s the kind of decision-making that seemingly confirms that Christopher Nolan made the right call in leaving Warner Bros. behind and choosing to make Oppenheimer with Universal Pictures instead. Or why Zack Snyder (who has said in interviews that he would love to come back to Warner Bros. and finish his intended Justice League sequels if he was asked and if the circumstances were right) is much happier working with Netflix and not dealing with any studio interference while directing his films like Army of the Dead and his upcoming two-part sci-fi epic Rebel Moon. And even if Warner Bros. Discovery is telling the truth when they said that their shelving of Batgirl had nothing to do with the talent of its lead actress and its directors, and that they would love to work with them again soon…why would they even want to? Leslie Grace, Adil El Arbi, and Bilall Fallah have already been publicly disrespected by the studio once (according to Deadline Hollywood, the two directors were in Morocco for El Arbi’s wedding when they got the news about Batgirl), and I can’t imagine any of them being in a rush to work with them again for a possible repeat of what they’re experiencing right now.
For many fans over in DCEU Twitter, who have shaken their heads at Warner Bros. and their decisions about the DCEU since 2017, they were divided on how to respond to all of this. On one side, it truly sucked for fans to see another situation in which the release of a DC film is tampered with, and for the cast and crew of said film to feel as if their hard work will never be seen by audiences the way it was meant to be seen. On the other side, fans couldn’t help but laugh at seeing Warner Bros. make another bad decision when it comes to the DCEU, that Warner Bros. remains cursed with bad luck by them the way Mister was cursed by Celie in The Color Purple, and that this is what the studio deserved for refusing to restore the SnyderVerse and not doing right by Snyder in letting him return to Warner Bros. and finish telling his five-part Justice League story like he was originally supposed to. And then there are others outside of DCEU Twitter who somehow think that this is Zack Snyder’s fault, and that his decisions when originally making Batman v. Superman and Justice League are still having a butterfly effect of causing headaches for Warner Bros. and their reputation, and resulting in the DCEU being treated the way it is now. Even though that such reasoning makes little to no sense whatsoever. Just like the theory that Snyder being directly responsible for Ava DuVernay’s New Gods being cancelled, or the recent Rolling Stone article that blamed Snyder and his bot farms for forcing the studio to release his version of Justice League on HBO Max. And not just because Snyder has been too busy making films with Netflix, and hasn’t had anything to do with the DCEU (outside of completing Zack Snyder’s Justice League), or any major decisions about the DCEU since 2017.
Yeah, I know. This is a lot to absorb and to talk about.
“I use their expectations against them. That will be their weakness. Not mine. Let them all underestimate me…— Leslie Grace (@lesliegrace) January 15, 2022
And when their guard is down, and their pride is rising, let me kick their butts.”
- Batgirl, Year One
Leslie Grace, Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Michael Keaton, Brendan Fraser, Ivory Aquino, Jacob Scipio and the entire BATGIRL Crew did not deserve this.— Batgirl Film News 🦇 (@BatgirlFilm) August 2, 2022
Their hard work deserves to be seen 🦇#ReleaseBatgirl
Time will soon tell what David Zaslav’s next move will be when it comes to Warner Bros. Discovery as a whole, and when it comes to the DCEU (and if rumors on Twitter are to be believed, there may be some more bad news to be expected before the end of this week, such as Zaslav wanting to scrap HBO Max completely and replace it with Discovery Plus as the streaming service to represent Warner Bros. Discovery), but I’ve said it once before and it bears repeating:
There really is never a dull moment when it comes to the DCEU.
Update: The directors of Batgirl, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, react to WB’s decision to shelve their movie.
Batgirl For Life 🦇 pic.twitter.com/WWGsiFtCqb— Batgirl Film News 🦇 (@BatgirlFilm) August 3, 2022
Image sources (in order of posting): Warner Bros., DC Films