Batgirl movie scrapped months before planned release
The new Batgirl movie has been scrapped by Warner Bros Discovery months before its planned release.
Reportedly budgeted at more than $70m (£58m), it was due to be shown in cinemas and on the streaming service HBO Max later this year.
The New York Post reported that the decision had followed a poor reaction to test screenings.
However, Warner Bros said the move reflected its “leadership’s strategic shift”.
The production was filmed entirely in Glasgow and the local council said it had brought a significant economic benefit to the city.
The film was based on the DC Comics character Barbara Gordon – or Batgirl – played by Leslie Grace.
She appeared alongside Michael Keaton as Batman, Brendan Fraser as villain Firefly and JK Simmons as Commissioner James Gordon.
Warner Bros also confirmed that Scoob! Holiday Haunt would be scrapped.
A spokesperson for the firm said: “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.”
The unusual move follows a change in leadership after Warner Bros merged with Discovery in May 2021, with David Zaslav its new CEO.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Zaslav has prioritised cost-cutting measures and refocusing the company on creating theatrical films rather than projects for streaming.
Films run into all kinds of issues while they’re being made. Projects jump from one studio to another, directors and actors come and go, and scripts often get stuck in what’s known as “development hell” for years before the cameras start rolling.
But what’s happened with Batgirl is much more unusual. When a film is already in the can, and $70m (£58m) has been spent, it’s extremely rare for it not to even see the light of day.
The film reportedly had not tested well with audiences in early screenings. To a certain extent, this isn’t unusual for a big action movie – the special effects often aren’t finished at the time the test screenings take place, which reduces viewers’ enthusiasm.
But a film company will still have a sense of whether or not they’re on to a winner. In this case, it seems Batgirl was caught in the middle – not thought to be worthy of a cinema release, but equally not financially viable to release only on streaming. Shelving it means the company won’t have to carry the losses on its books.
There is also a strategic change at parent company Warner Discovery, which has decided to no longer produce big-budget blockbusters solely for HBO Max, the streaming service it owns.
That’s a significant change from the “day and date” strategy adopted by the previous WarnerMedia CEO, which saw big blockbusters released on streaming at the same time as theatres.
That might have made sense following the pandemic, but many are now starting to push back, and fight for the more traditional theatrical window. Particularly in a summer where films such as Top Gun: Maverick have been making huge amounts of money at the box office, and enjoying the cultural relevance a cinema release brings with it.
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Batgirl was offered £150,000 by Glasgow City Council as an incentive to film in the area but it has not been paid.
At the time Screen Scotland said any production given public money was expected to hire locally.
Filming began at the end of 2021 and continued until March.
A spokesman for the local authority said the filming of Batgirl had brought a very significant economic benefit to the city – including 450 Glasgow-based crew jobs, about 1,300 Scottish supporting artists and many subcontractors working as tradespeople and in traffic management and security.
He added: “Any decision on the release of the production is very much a matter for Warner Bros. The £150,000 grant support has not been paid, and discussions continue with the producers.”