Warner Bros. made the contentious decision to nuke its $90 million Batgirl project from the face of the earth yesterday, announcing that the movie, which had already wrapped up filming and was in the editing phase, would not be released anywhere, neither in theaters nor on HBO Max. Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, a sequel to 2020s Scoob!, suffered the same fate.
The move, reportedly deemed unprecedented by industry insiders, piqued the internet's curiosity with questions like, "What is Warner Bros. hiding from us?" "Could the film be so bad that the studio would rather eat the loss than release a film of such poor quality?" "Could it be worse than the twice-flopped Morbius?"
WB: Batgirl isn’t good enough to release, we’re going to eat that cost instead and save our brand rep
Sony: We put Morbius, the worst superhero movie since Fant4stic, in theaters TWICE pic.twitter.com/Xojv1ywrHk
— James (@arc_blog) August 2, 2022
The truth is more boring — and arguably more concerning for fans of superhero movies. According to a report from Variety, the film was conceived under the regime of former Warner Bros. execs Jason Kilar and Ann Sarnoff, who shook up the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic by electing to immediately release all of their films to HBO Max. Once David Saslav took over the company, he made no secret of reaffirming the company's commitment to theatrical releases prior to streaming releases.
Apparently for execs at Warner Bros, Batgirl, which starred Leslie Grace, Michael Keaton and Brendan Fraser, was neither monumental enough to warrant a theatrical release that could potentially double its budget in marketing costs nor small enough to warrant streaming the film on HBO Max. Instead, Warner Bros. decided that the most financially sound way to recoup lost costs on both Batgirl and Scoob! was to write them off in its taxes.
Once Variety reported on the motive for Batgirl's cancelation, fans were outraged on behalf of the cast and crew of the film and because many were genuinely interested in what a Batgirl movie could look like. It didn't help that Warner Bros. apparently still has plans to release the $300 million The Flash movie, considering all the shenanigans its star, Ezra Miller, has been up to.
WB: let’s scrap the Batgirl film with a promising young star, Michael Keaton Batman, & Brendan Fraiser as the villain but make absolutely no changes to a Flash film where are star is currently hiding from the police https://t.co/qFNmcPlmcj
— Nicholas (@NicholasJLevi) August 2, 2022
Insanely disrespectful to everyone involved with Batgirl to not at least release it on HBO Max. https://t.co/zY6oLuA6Y0
— Jack McBryan (@McBDirect) August 2, 2022
If the rumors about Batgirl’s cancelled release are true, there is absolutely no excuse for that.
Leslie Grace deserves better. Brendan Fraser deserves better. Michael Keaton deserves better. The fans deserve better.
Batgirl deserves better! pic.twitter.com/9YL8xtyXrN
— Michael Patterson (@michaelp93) August 2, 2022
Variety's film critic Guy Lodge tweeted a thread connecting the decision to the controversial Martin Scorsese take in which the director argued that studios viewing superhero films as "product" instead of "art" is damaging the industry.
Lodge argued that the Batgirl decision perfectly illustrated how a major studio was apparently happy to not release a movie that would have surely drawn some viewers because they didn't think it would be profitable enough. "For fans who genuinely thrill to superhero movies: those who criticise the things you love aren’t half as great a threat to your viewing pleasure as those who finance them," he wrote.
For fans who genuinely thrill to superhero movies: those who criticise the things you love aren’t half as great a threat to your viewing pleasure as those who finance them.
— Guy Lodge (@GuyLodge) August 3, 2022
The film's directors, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (the former of which learned the news at the time of his wedding), posted a statement expressing their shock at the sudden cancelation.
"As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, 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," they wrote. "In any case, as huge fans of Batman since we were little kids, it was a privilege and an honor to have been a part of the DCEU, even if it was for a brief moment. Batgirl for life."
Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have released a statement about ‘BATGIRL’ being cancelled.
“As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences… we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves.” pic.twitter.com/ZDKeu1xtNl
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) August 3, 2022