it is more profitable to kill a film than to release it without theaters

  • 13

Until now it seemed that superhero movies were the safest product that today’s Hollywood could cling to like straws. The same could be said for streaming. But neither one nor the other could be something so certain after the news that has shaken the scene in recent hours, regarding the premiere of the movie ‘Batgirl’.

Neither streaming nor cinemas, cancellation. In media like Variety confirmed last night the radical decision of Warner and DC to shelve the film starring Leslie Grace, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, which was going to be released directly on HBO Max. Now it will neither have a streaming premiere nor will it try its luck with a commercial release in theaters, since the film has been canceled despite having finished filming and being in post-production.

She is not the only one affected by this change. Scoob! Holiday Haunt’, an animated film that continues the reboot made to the character of Scooby Doo a few years ago, has also been canceled in a sudden way despite being destined for HBO Max and also being practically finished.

'Batgirl' was already shot and almost ready to premiere on HBO Max.  It will not be seen there, nor anywhere else

The reason: the costs. Upon hearing the news, it was speculated that the final result had been totally unacceptable for Warner Bros Discovery, the parent company of the conglomerate that includes Warner, DC and HBO. Perhaps a response to the failure of ‘Morbius’ sensing a fatigue with superhero movies and perhaps it was convenient not to risk low-level productions.

But none of that, the reasons are purely economic as have pointed out in Variety in the last hours. ‘Batgirl’ has cost 90 million dollars adding production costs and problems related to COVID, something that collides with the new strategy that David Zaslav wants to impose as CEO of Warner Bros Discovery. Unlike his predecessor in the role Jason Kilar, Zaslav wants to bet more on theatrical releases and less on streamingand does not want HBO Max original productions exceed 35 million cost.

'Thor: Love and Thunder' and 'The invisible agent' click: the immediate move to streaming is deflating collections

Incentives for not brand new. The 90 million for ‘Batgirl’ far exceeds Zaslav’s guidelines, and at the same time the studio does not perceive the film as important enough to have a theatrical release. Adding international distribution costs, the film’s expenses could double (about 50 million are estimated to market it in the United States and tens of millions to do the same in the rest of the world).

Premiering directly on HBO Max both ‘Batgirl’ and ‘Scoob! Holiday Haunt’ seems the most logical decision to avoid these cost overruns, but several sources have assured that the final decision has been to take a tax deduction on both films in exchange for canceling them.

These tax incentives, apparently, make the costs more affordable than the premiere on platforms. Warner assumes the budget of both films as a “dead loss”, that is, the company declares this expense as created by the inefficiency of the market, as there is an imbalance between supply and demand. This allows you to deduct a series of taxes linked to these productions and to the bulk of Warner Bros Discovery’s accounting.

It will never see the light of day. By making this decision, it implies that none of the films can be released in any type of format. You could not even take the route of selling it to some other studio, such as Netflix, which decides to assume the production costs. Put another way, ‘Batgirl’ is destined to never see the light of day.

A priori, this should not affect other DC releases. Not even the controversial ‘The Flash’ seems in danger, despite all the scandals of his actor Ezra Milleror the adaptation of ‘Blue Beetle’, originally produced for HBO Max but it will finally be released in theaters in 2023.

The financial challenges of streaming. Despite being a very helpful solution during the toughest moments of the pandemic, with the cinemas closed, the commitment to streaming seems increasingly difficult to justify by film studios. At least taking into account the amounts necessary to invest in content and what is being obtained from subscriptions, very different from the investment of theatrical releases that justify the very high costs through collection and subsequent passage in domestic markets ( digital rental and physical copies).

By the year 2025 It is estimated that studios such as Disney will end up investing some 33 billion dollars annually in original content, while Netflix could reach 19 billion annually and Warner Bros. Discovery 22.4 billion -although Zaslav’s decisions seem to directly cut those figures- .

Taken together, the major platforms could jointly spend $172 billion on original content, and the pace of subscriptions is experiencing a noticeable slowdown. Therefore, it is not excessively surprising that the platforms are tending towards the increase in the price of subscriptions, as they have recently announced on Amazon. The streaming business was not as sustainable as it first seemed, and we could see fewer and fewer astronomical investments in specific productions like this. In other words, the case of ‘Batgirl’ may well be that of the canary in the mine.

Until now it seemed that superhero movies were the safest product that today’s Hollywood could cling to like straws. The…

Until now it seemed that superhero movies were the safest product that today’s Hollywood could cling to like straws. The…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.