David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, announced the company’s controversial decision this week to cancel the releases of “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Thursday.
“We won’t be releasing a movie until it’s ready,” Zaslav said during the question-and-answer portion of the call, when asked directly about Batgirl getting the axe. “We won’t shoot a movie to make a quarter, and we won’t release a movie unless we believe in it.”
During the presentation, Zaslav repeatedly cited DC’s superhero properties — including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman — as central to the company’s broader content strategy. To better organize these properties, Zaslav cited his previously stated goal of teaming up with a “10-year plan focused solely on DC,” similar to Disney’s approach with Marvel Studios, as managed by Kevin Feige. But he did not announce who will lead this team.
“These are brands that are known everywhere in the world,” he said of the DC characters. As part of that, we will focus on quality. DC is something we think we can improve on and focus on right now.”
Zaslav mentioned “quality” repeatedly when discussing DC, strongly suggesting that “Batgirl” was not at a level thought necessary to adapt the broader comic book property.
“The goal is to grow the DC brand, grow the DC characters,” he said. “But also, our job is to protect the DC brand. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Zaslav named “Black Adam,” “Shazam! 2” and “The Flash” as the DC features he’s “very excited about.”
“We’ve seen them, we think they’re great, and we think we can make them even better,” he said. (Zaslav’s mention of “The Flash,” currently slated for June 2023, is especially meaningful, as star Ezra Miller confronts multiple allegations of misconduct and misconduct that neither the actor nor the studio has publicly addressed.)
The decision to put together two nearly completed feature films — including the superhero property on a $90 million budget — stunned the broader industry. On Wednesday, “Batgirl” directors Adel Elaraby and Bilal Falah (Bad Boys for Life, Mrs. Marvell) released a statement that they were “sad and shocked by the news,” and star Leslie Grace said she was “proud of the love, hard work, and intent provided by both our amazing cast and crew who made it happen.” tireless in this movie.”
Tuesday, diverse She stated that the main driver of the decision was a shift in the company’s strategy away from creating exclusive feature films for HBO Max, as was the case with “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” following the WarnerMedia and Discovery merger.
“The idea of these expensive films going live – we can’t find an economic case for it, we can’t find an economic value for it, so we are making a strategic shift,” Zaslav said during the question-and-answer session.
He also addressed the shift during his opening remarks on his second-quarter earnings call.
“We will fully embrace theatrical stage because we believe it creates interest and demand, provides great marketing winds, and generates word-of-mouth buzz as films go live and beyond,” Zaslav said. “We have a different view of the wisdom of releasing live streaming movies, and we have taken some drastic steps to correct the previous strategy.”
During the show, CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels cited the strategy led by the previous leadership at WarnerMedia – namely Jason Keeler and Anne Sarnoff – to fund “select films directly to HBO Max” as lacking “sufficient support” to continue. He cited “Wonder Twins” (which was in pre-production), the almost-completed “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” as “examples of streaming movies that don’t fit with this new strategic approach.”
Wiedenfels said canceling these projects was a “difficult decision,” but the company “is committed to being disciplined about a framework that guides our comfortable investment to maximize return.”
To bear the losses from the film cancellations, the company is said to be cutting taxes on both films, citing a shift in strategy following the merger, but that strategy was not addressed during the earnings call.