Warner Bros axed the Batgirl film planned for HBO Max, opting to shelve the $US90 million ($A130 million) film as the reorganised studio revamps its approach to streaming and DC Comics films.
The studio ultimately decided the nearly completed Batgirl didn’t merit either a streaming debut or a theatrical release.
Warner Bros instead is choosing to entirely write off the film starring Leslie Grace as Batgirl and co-starring Michael Keaton (returning as Batman), JK Simmons and Brendan Fraser.
It was directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Production wrapped in April.
Warner Bros’ decision is highly unusual. Movie that don’t meet studio expectations are typically sold off or dumped with little fanfare. Batgirl, approved before WarnerMedia’s merger with Discovery Inc, will instead simply not see the light of day.
“The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max,” a Warner Bros spokesperson said, adding that Grace was “an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance”.
An early cut of Batgirl had recently undergone a test screening. While its scores weren’t good, poor test results haven’t been infrequent for Warner Bros’ DC releases.
“We are saddened and shocked by the news. We still can’t believe it,” El Arbi and Fallah said in a statement.
“We wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha’Allah (if God wills).”
Warner Bros is shifting its strategy on film releases and trimming costs under new Warner Bros Discovery chief executive David Zaslav.
After releasing studio films simultaneously in cinemas and on HBO Max, or producing films such as Batgirl solely for HBO Max, the company is returning to having separate theatrical windows before streaming.
While Batgirl isn’t as pricey as many superhero films, which cost up to $US200 million to make, it’s a bigger-budget movie for an HBO Max title.
Zazlav has maintained big-budget movies are best served by a rollout in cinemas, and Warner Bros was unwilling to spend the millions more needed on that kind of release for Batgirl.
Warner Bros hopes to reset its DC pipeline – going bigger, not smaller with its rival Marvel. The streaming-only Batgirl didn’t suit those plans.