Update: More HBO Max bad news - new movies no longer guaranteed.
In an announcement that has shocked the film industry, Warner Bros. has confirmed that its Batgirl movie, which was planned to release on HBO Max, has been canceled — it will not release in theaters or on streaming.
The New York Post (opens in new tab) first reported the news, with Variety (opens in new tab) also confirming that the DC Comics movie has been scrapped. This decision is particularly shocking because Batgirl was not in development or pre-production; it was essentially finished. The $90 million movie wrapped filming earlier this year and was in post-production with final touches being added ahead of its planned release on HBO Max in the coming months.
The film was no small project either, with an almost nine-figure budget and a star-studded cast, Batgirl would have been a tentpole release for HBO Max. Leslie Grace was set to step into the spandex of Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl), and the film was helmed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah who previously worked on Ms. Marvel over on Disney Plus.
Alongside Grace in the leading role, Batgirl also was set to feature J.K Simmons reprising his role as Commissioner Gordon, who is Barbara's father, and internet-favorite Brendan Fraser was playing the main villain, Firefly. The movie was even going to feature Michael Keaton as Batman — a role he’s returning to thirty years after 1992’s Batman Returns.
The Batgirl movie had a rocky road to production after spending several years gestating at Warner Bros. Avengers director Joss Whedon was originally attached before he dropped out in 2018. But now it seems the drawn-out saga of this Batgirl movie has reached a very unfortunate ending.
Why did Warner Bros. cancel Batgirl?
Warner Bros. decision to cancel Batgirl is certainly an unusual one. While films and TV shows get canceled all the time, it’s extremely uncommon for a studio to spend almost $100 million on a project and then shelf it without attempting to recoup any of that significant investment.
Variety reports that studio insiders have claimed the decision to cancel the film’s release was not because of its quality, or due to any issues with the creative team behind the scenes, but rather Batgirl is the unlucky victim of a corporate shakeup. The project was greenlit before David Zaslav took over as CEO of the freshly-merged Warners Bros. Discovery earlier this spring, and it's believed the movie doesn't fit into Zaslav’s new plans for the company.
While his predecessors were fixated on growing HBO Max, Zaslav is reportedly keen to renew Warner Bros.'s focus on theatrical releases. Reportedly, the problem with Batgirl is it’s neither big enough in scale to warrant a release in cinemas but also it doesn’t make economic sense to dump it onto a streaming service. Batgirl finds itself in no man's land, not quite fitting in either camp.
Persisting with its planned HBO Max release would seem the most obvious course of action, but Variety understands that Warner Bros. will instead take a tax write-down on the movie. This is viewed as the most financially prudent way to recoup as much money as possible but does mean that Warner Bros. cannot release the movie or sell it to another studio.
Whatever happens, Warner Bros. is going to take a hit on this one, and audiences have been denied the chance to see a flick that sounded, on paper at least, pretty promising. Not to mention Grace had already done a number of interviews expressing her excitement about the role and even teasing the possibility of a sequel.
Warner Bros. has released a statement detailing the reasons for the canceling decision (per Deadline): "The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership's strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max. Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future."
Alongside Batgirl a sequel to 2020’s animated Scooby-Doo movie, Scoob!, has also been scrapped. Called Scoob!: Holiday Haunt the follow-up was also reportedly nearing completion and was even featured in a sizzle reel for HBO Max back in late 2021. It’s believed that Warner Bros. had already spent around $40 million on its production. Jinxies!
In fact, Batgirl isn’t the only DC Comics project that is giving Warner Bros. headaches right now. The Flash is currently scheduled to release in theaters in 2023, but multiple allegations of misconduct and the erratic behavior of its star, Ezra Miller, could throw that into doubt. The film, which will also include Keaton as Batman, is being positioned as a soft reboot of the increasingly fractured DC Universe but now its own future could be a risk. At least things are a little more stable over at Marvel Studios with the entire MCU phase 5 and 6 slate recently being confirmed.
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