Warner Bros. deletes ‘Batgirl’: Test screening scores were bad, but not without precedent

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Updated: Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah responded to Warner Bros.’ decides to take down “Batgirl” via an Instagram statement shared Wednesday afternoon.

“We are saddened and shocked by the news. We still can’t believe it,” said the duo. “As directors, it’s critical that our work is shown to the public, and while the film is far from finished, we wish fans around the world would had a chance to see and embrace the final film for themselves.Maybe one day insha’Allah they will.”

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The statement continued: “Our amazing cast and crew have done an amazing job and worked so hard to bring Batgirl to life. We are eternally grateful to be part of that team. It was a dream to work with such amazing actors as Michael Keaton, JK Simmons, Brendan Fraser, Jacob Scipio, Corey Johnson, Rebecca Front and most importantly the wonderful Leslie Grace, who portrayed Batgirl with such passion, dedication and humanity.”

Finally, they said, “In any case, as big fans of Batman since we were little kids, it was a privilege and an honor to be a part of the DCEU, if only for a brief moment. Batgirl for life .”

Earlier: Warner Bros. revealed on Tuesday that it will be “Batgirl” or “Scoob! Holiday Haunt” in any form: not theatrically, and not even on HBO Max.

The advantage of a tax credit for not The release of “Batgirl” weighed on the minds of Warner Bros. Discovery executives heavier than other options, Variety reported Tuesday. Two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to IndieWire that this was the case.

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It seems that “Batgirl”, which was always intended to be a direct-to-HBO Max release, was not deemed essential enough to the future of the DC universe for that to continue. At least, not when measured against the potential tax benefit that comes with taking a massive loss on an asset that doesn’t benefit the company in any monetary way. In basic terms, Warner Bros. Discovery now considers the “Batgirl” budget, which has expanded to about $90 million due to Covid issues, as a sunk cost. Money previously invested and not recoverable can be written off after tax time.

Another option would have been to make “Batgirl” a theatrical release, a more direct revenue stream. Former Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich seemed open to that idea, according to an April Puck report, but then he left the company. The significant reshoots that would have been required plus tens of millions of dollars (at least) in marketing, and the cost of mounting a theatrical release were simply too high when compared to the potential box office performance. Big budget direct-to-streaming movies, a source said, are no longer a priority under the new Zaslav order as they were for former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

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The New York Post, which first reported the news that “Batgirl” would not see the light of day (or of the Bat signal at night), quoted a source as calling the film’s quality “ineffable.” They wrote that test screenings were “so poorly received by moviegoers that the studio decided to cut losses and run.” IndieWire confirmed that there was a test screening of a non-final “Batgirl” cut that received poor grades. But the low numbers weren’t unprecedented, one person told us.

That test screening took place about a week before last month’s San Diego Comic-Con. Regardless of the results, “Batgirl” would not be featured at the annual fan convention, a source told IndieWire. The decision was made in advance to keep the focus on Warner Bros.’s two feature films, “Black Adam” and “Shazam! Anger of the Gods.”

“Batgirl” starred Leslie Grace in the title role (and as Barbara Gordon), Michael Keaton returned as his Batman, JK Simmons and Brendan Fraser. It was directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the Belgian film team behind the episodes of ‘Ms. Marvel’ and ‘Bad Boys for Life’.

One of David Zaslav’s stated goals is to straighten out the DC verse ship, and sources tell IndieWire that Zaslav will give theatrical priority going forward, especially with regard to DC releases.

Like the discarded CNN+, “Batgirl” wasn’t Zaslav’s project — it was a different carryover from its predecessors Kilar and Ann Sarnoff. Those two were so committed to building the then WarnerMedia streaming portfolio that they chose to release Warners’ entire 2021 slate day-and-date on HBO Max, much to the ire of theater owners in the process (and plenty of talent too). ).

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Another goal of Zaslav is cost savings. The fledgling company is undergoing rolling layoffs over a self-proclaimed mandate to seek at least $3 billion in synergies between Discovery, Inc. and WarnerMedia.

“The decision not to release ‘Batgirl’ reflects the strategic shift of our leadership regarding the DC universe and HBO Max. Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision does not reflect her achievements,” said a Warner Bros. spokesperson. Pictures in a statement to IndieWire. “We are the filmmakers of ‘Batgirl’ and ‘Scoob! Holiday Haunt’ and their respective cast and we hope to work with everyone again in the near future.”

Warner Bros. Discovery will report its Q2 results on Thursday after the close of trading. The second quarter of 2022 was the first quarter of Warner Bros. Discovery as a company. AT&T previously housed WarnerMedia.

Ryan Lattanzio contributed to the report.

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