- “Batgirl” won’t be released on HBO Max, as planned, or even in theaters.
- It had a modest budget compared to other superhero films, but was not considered ready for theaters.
- But theaters desperately need product at a time when studios aren’t releasing as many movies.
In another shakeup of the DC Cinematic Universe, the “Batgirl” movie — which wrapped filming earlier this year — won’t hit HBO Max as planned, or even hit theaters.
The film cost $90 million after pandemic-related costs bumped the budget, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Even with the added expense, it’s a modest cost compared to other superhero movies today, which often have prices in the $200 million range. That’s how much this year’s “The Batman,” another DC property released by Warner Bros. in theaters, cost to make.
Theaters are hungry for more product, either due to pandemic-related production delays or a shift to streaming. There aren’t as many movies hitting theaters right now as they were before the pandemic, so it’s disappointing that a mid-budget superhero movie apparently isn’t “big enough” for theatrical release. .
“Batgirl”‘s budget was more in line with the 2019 DC film “Birds of Prey,” which cost $85 million and grossed $205 million worldwide. It found another life on HBO Max, after an exclusive theatrical release.
Hollywood studios are increasingly committing to superhero movies and other IP franchises in theaters as these are the biggest moneymakers, especially coming out of the pandemic.
If that’s the future, I wouldn’t mind if studios took more risks, like ‘Birds of Prey’ and potentially ‘Batgirl’, which had exciting filmmakers behind it with Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who directed the hit “Bad Boys for Life” in 2020, and a Latina rising star as the title character Leslie Grace.
If that means superhero movies with lower budgets, then that would be a welcome change of pace – for both studios and viewers – from today’s event tents that require mega-corporations in selling tickets around the world to make a profit.
Perhaps more superhero movies should take inspiration from another reliable box office genre: horror, which generates impressive ticket sales relative to their low cost.
Why ‘Batgirl’ Was Dropped
It’s easy to see why Warner Bros. Discovery, DC’s new parent company, is said to be setting a higher bar for DC movies after the turmoil of recent years – especially as it currently faces controversy over the big-budget ‘Flash’ movie and its star.
The company has made it a priority to get the DC movie franchise on the right track (and cut costs to appease Wall Street). Variety reported that it wants to “overhaul” DC, including revitalizing underutilized characters like Superman and finding a framework to oversee DC’s creative strategy, like Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.
To that end, there have been numerous reports as to why “Batgirl” was canned. Variety and THR reported that Warner Bros. Discovery hoped to take the film as a tax depreciation.
CEO David Zaslav has made movies a priority for the company, which means films headed for HBO Max that were greenlit under former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar are being treated with more scrutiny.
In the case of “Batgirl”, reactions to early test screenings were “harsh”, according to Rolling Stone, and rather than pouring more money into the film to make it worthy of a theatrical release, the company chose to recover the costs with the write.
But as THR pointed out, it’s rare for early test screenings — where a movie is likely far from its final version — to act as a “final judgment.”
A crew member told Insider that “it was a great shoot” and “we all thought we were making a good product.”
Even though “Batgirl” was poorly tested, it’s hard to accept WBD taking it down when such bad superhero movies at both ends of the budget spectrum hit theaters. This year alone, Sony’s “Morbius,” which received a 16% critical score for Rotten Tomatoes, was released in theaters – twice. Certainly, a new corporate regime comes with new priorities, but it’s not a pretty sight.
If Warner Bros. Discovery wants to mend its relationship with movie theaters (and creators and talent, for that matter), so releasing “Batgirl” might have been a good start. The public could judge for themselves.