The feature film Batgirl, adapted from the DC Comics character, will no longer be released on any platform at Warner Bros.–neither in theaters nor on HBO Max.
The film, starring Leslie Grace as the titular hero, was intended to tie into the larger DC Extended Universe. J.K. Simmons reprised his role as Commissioner James Gordon, which he played in both Justice League films. In addition to appearing in the next The Flash movie, Michael Keaton, who played Batman in Tim Burton‘s 1989 Batman and 1992 Batman Returns, was also somewhat connected with the project.
So why did Batgirl get the shaft when the studio had already spent $90 million on the film, up from the initial $75 million production budget for the project? Well, it’s not exactly clear, as there are conflicting reports.
The original New York Post story reported the Batgirl film was so negatively received that Warner Bros. labeled it “unspeakable” and “irredeemable,” prompting the studio to “cut its losses and run, for the sake of the brand’s future.”
This explanation is further supported by Collider, who spoke with people who saw the unfinished movie. They told the news outlet the film was a “disappointment” and “looked cheap” compared to other films.
Additionally, there are also reports that the decision not to release the film in neither theaters nor HBO Max comes down to money.
Variety reported the movie was most likely shelved due to taxes. The film was “neither big enough to feel worthy of a major theatrical release nor small enough to make economic sense in an increasingly cutthroat streaming landscape.”
If the film had been released in theaters, spending on the film could have nearly doubled, and the news outlet reports that it was a “non-starter” at a company newly committed to cutting costs and improving the bottom line.
Adding credibility is that Batgirl isn’t the only film axed by Warner Bros. Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, a follow-up to the 2020 film “Scoob!,” has also been shelved by the studio. Production is said to have cost the studio $40 million, according to Variety.
Due to these decisions, Variety reports the company will take a tax write-down on both films, which may be the most financially sensible approach to recover the costs.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the impact of the $43 billion WarnerMedia-Discovery merger that closed in April.
Batgirl came to fruition at Warner Bros. under Jason Kilar and Ann Sarnoff‘s leadership team that was dedicated to advancing HBO Max. In 2020, WarnerMedia (now Warner Bros. Discovery) chose to simultaneously release the studio’s entire 2021 theatrical slate on the streamer as the movie business continued to struggle due to the pandemic. This drove subscribers for HBO Max but also jeopardized the studio’s reputation with top-tier talent.
At the time, Sarnoff described the decision as a “one-year plan,” and since the merger, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav pledged to release first-run feature films in cinemas before placing them on HBO Max. However, despite reshoots and increased budgeting, Batgirl didn’t rise to the level of becoming a big theatrical event film, having been developed for HBO Max with a smaller budget than DC productions produced for theatrical releases.
“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. Picture spokesperson told The Wrap in a statement. “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.”
Fans, though, have their own theories, most of which are wishful thinking and have far less support than the aforementioned theories. Some speculate that this has something to do with Ezra Miller‘s Flash antics, which continue to be a problem in and of themselves, but DC may be attempting to reverse elements of that film, which was originally going to star Keaton as Batman.
The truth is there’s probably not a singular reason why Warner Bros. decided to shelve the project, and all of these factors played a role to some degree. Nevertheless, no matter how much the studio liked the directors and stars, it ended up being a business decision.