Warner Bros. Discovery CEO defends canceling 'Batgirl': 'Our job is to protect the DC brand'
- Warner Bros. Discovery canceled the release of the "Batgirl" movie this week.
- CEO David Zaslav defended the decision during the company's investor call on Thursday.
Warner Bros. Discovery, DC's new parent company, has made it a priority to get its superhero movie universe on the right track. One casualty of that has been the "Batgirl" movie.
The company said this week it had canceled the release of the nearly completed film, which had wrapped production earlier this year and was intended for HBO Max.
CEO David Zaslav defended the decision during Warner Bros. Discovery's Q2 earnings call on Thursday, its first as a company since WarnerMedia and Discovery completed their merger in April.
"The objective is to grow the DC brand, to 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 touted the company's commitment to movie theaters, saying a theatrical release "creates word-of-mouth buzz" for a movie's eventual streaming debut. With "Batgirl" developed as a straight-to-streaming movie, it was put under heightened scrutiny.
It's a big pivot from former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar's vision. In 2021, he directed that every Warner Bros. movie be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. The studio also started developing HBO Max exclusive movies, including "Batgirl."
"We can't find an economic case for it," Zaslav said, referring to streaming-first movies. "So we're making a strategic shift."
The movie cost $90 million to make after pandemic-related costs, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which is still a modest budget compared to most superhero blockbusters. But Warner Bros. Discovery still opted to scrap the project in favor of a tax writedown, according to Variety and THR, as it looks to save costs wherever possible — and carve out a new direction for DC movies.
DC movies have been rocked by behind-the-scenes controversy in recent years, and while some have been hits — like "Aquaman" and "The Batman" — they haven't reached the same consistent critical and financial success as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to change that. Zaslav said that the company has a 10-year plan for DC, similar to Marvel's strategy.
"We have done a reset," he said. "We've restructured the business where we are going to focus, where there is going to be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC. We believe we can build a much more sustainable business."
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