“Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”
Though that above bit of immortal Hollywood film dialogue was spoken over ninety years ago in the Edward G. Robinson-starrer Little Caesar in an entirely different context, one can’t help but wonder if perhaps director Mervyn LeRoy and Co. might have ogled a nearby Magic 8 Ball and gleaned a vision of the current condition of former heavyweights Warner Bros. and DC Comics which – to put it bluntly – ain’t pretty…
From our “It never rain but it pours” comrades over at The Hollywood Reporter comes the rather startling and nearly unprecedented news that Discovery -the current Scrooge-like overseer of the storied and legendary Warner Bros. and DC Comics – has opted to completely shelve two all but complete feature films, with apparently no plans to ever show these dual efforts in any form.
The two films being put into mothballs by Discovery are Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, both of which have attracted a fair amount of press in recent months due to at least a modicum of interest from fans of the superhero genre as well as from cartoon fans and families that are always on the lookout for kid-friendly fare.
Batgirl was all but complete and headed for an HBO Max exclusive engagement when Discovery pulled the plug on it, with an already estimated $80 million smackers (heading south to $90 due to COVID hijinks) invested in its budget. Fan excitement on Batgirl was growing with the announcement that Michael Keaton would reprise his Bruce Wayne/Batman role from the Tim Burton canon of films. As for poor old Scooby and the Mystery Gang, that computer animated holiday special was in the can and awaiting a release, with a $40 million budget spent on it when all was said and done. Both films are modestly budgeted in relation to their celluloid contemporaries, underlining the financial peril Discovery insists that they’re going through.
About that peril: Discovery’s very own Scrooge McDuck – David Zaslav (que Jerry Goldsmith’s score from The Omen) – is looking to trim at least $40 billion from their books, and many prognosticators of doom are insisting that what we’re seeing now is just the beginning of a larger purge still to come. As if to showcase this and the seeming confusion Zaslav and his band of gremlins have when it comes to the world of entertainment, it was announced today that DC has officially dropped the word “Comics” from their social media handles and website URL, replacing that evergreen word with – Saints preserve us – a slap of video content to their site. Dark and strange times if you’ve ever been a fan of the comic book medium…
In a statement, a Warner Bros. spokesperson said that “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.”
As someone who has lived and breathed the Hollywood scene and written about it for years, and as an admirer of the comic book and animated mediums, I can say without hesitation that all of this is nigh unprecedented in an industry that routinely wallows in bad behavior. Perhaps, if nothing else, all of this sturm und drang serves as a cautionary about the dangers of a company with no apparent love for film, television and comics buying out companies that have a proven track record in those fields and then subsequently gutting, exploiting and ultimately tossing in the garbage the very pop culture ephemera that we all love so much.
Here’s to better days ahead for Warner Bros. and DC; they – and their fans – certainly deserve it.