Batgirl canceled: Why Warner Bros. axed the DC movie

Cameron Frew
Leslie Grace in the canceled Batgirl
Warner Bros.

It’s official: Batgirl has been canceled by Warner Bros. and banished to the shelf. Why would the studio make such an “unprecedented” decision? Let’s dig in.

“I use their expectations against them. That will be their weakness. Not mine. Let them all underestimate me… and when their guard is down, and their pride is rising, let me kick their butts.”

This was tweeted by Leslie Grace in January this year, a quote pulled directly from Batgirl: Year One, alongside the first official look at Gotham’s new caped crusader.

Fans were excited: we had Bad Boys for Life and Ms. Marvel’s Bilall Fallah at Adil El Arbi at the helm; a terrific Batgirl costume; Michael Keaton returning as Batman; JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon; and Brendan Fraser as supervillain arsonist Firefly. Then in an instant, it all came crumbling down: Warner Bros. has canned the film, with no plans to release it anywhere. But why was Batgirl canceled?

What Warner Bros. said about canceling Batgirl

Warner Bros. released a statement amid the controversy, which reads: “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.”

Last night, The New York Post published a report alleging Batgirl had been shelved by Warner Bros., despite having already finished shooting, with a price tag of $80 million, give or take $10 million.

This came off the back of disastrous test screenings, a source claimed, telling the outlet: “They think an unspeakable Batgirl is going to be irredeemable.”

The report also described The Batman as an R-rated movie that did “OK” with a haul of more than $770 million, so it was quickly dismissed – and then came the trades. The Wrap, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Deadline all posted articles corroborating the claims, while also revealing the cancelation of Scoob! Holiday Haunt.

Was Batgirl canceled because it was bad?

While The New York Post’s original report would certainly suggest so, the truth doesn’t appear to so simple.

The Hollywood Reporter part-attributed the cancelation to the rising costs of the film, surging to $90 million as a result of protocols around global restrictions, combined with it “not having the spectacle that audiences have come to expect from DC fare.”

According to Deadline, the film had one test screening, “and the result wasn’t that bad, considering that the cut had temporary visual effects which tend to temper audience enthusiasm in the scores.

“Already, the studio is discussing making different deals with the directors and Miss Bala star Grace, because this was not a reflection on their talent as much as the radical strategy shift.”

Concept art from Batgirl
Warner Bros.
Batgirl will never be released.

The Wrap’s report points the judgment towards the top brass. “The leaders of the studio determined ultimately, in spite of reshoots and increased budget, that the movie simply did not work, according to insiders,” it reads.

“The new owners and management, led by CEO David Zaslav, are committed to making DC titles big theatrical event films, and Batgirl isn’t that.”

Warner Bros. is concentrating on theatrical releases after Batgirl cancelation

The decision to cancel a film that’s already racked up tens of millions of dollars has baffled everyone, including rival executives. “Worked in this town for three decades and this is some unprecedented shit right here,” one said.

However, the move seems to come in the wake of the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, with newly installed CEO David Zaslav burning Jason Kilar’s streaming strategy to the ground.

The former chief prioritized HBO Max with day-and-date theatrical releases, an experiment that saw Christopher Nolan pack his bags and move to Universal, and the likes of Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, and The Matrix Resurrections arrive on streaming alongside the big screen.

Kilar reportedly still called the strategy a win after he was punted, but the world is changing. Netflix’s cataclysmic losses have shown that investors are no longer swayed by high subscriber counts. Profit is all that matters; this has been emphasized by Top Gun: Maverick’s record-breaking, billion-busting success.

The real reason Batgirl was canceled: a “tax write-down”

Deadline’s report features a curious triad of words: while discussing the studio’s decision to cut its losses rather than risk a flop in the theatrical marketplace, it says this was coupled with the “purchase accounting maneuver.”

According to several sources, the company will take a “tax write-down” – i.e., a business expense that can lower the amount of tax you have to pay – on Batgirl and Scoob, “seen internally as the most financially sound way to recoup the costs,” according to Variety.

Apparently, this “accounting opportunity” expires by mid-August, so don’t expect Warner Bros. to cull its upcoming slate.

For anyone believing this to be a marketing ploy – understandable, given the level of buzz and mythos now surrounding the film – a tax write-down has one major consequence: Warner Bros. would be prohibited from monetizing the movie.

In other words, it will never be released, nor can it be sold to another studio.

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