Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Not Getting It: Warner Bros. Adjusts Film Slate Following 'Batman v Superman' Disappointment [UPDATE]
Warner Bros. is apparently really not happy with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice right now...
The film was intended to be the big launch, the real beginning of the DC Extended Universe. $1 billion seemed to be in the cards, because who wouldn't flock to the first big screen team-up of two of the greatest superheroes and some of the most iconic fictional characters in history?
Opening with a strong $166 million domestically, the film inevitably plummeted over 69% on its second weekend and it appears that it won't reach the $1 billion threshold that the studio apparently, absolutely NEEDED it to reach.
Remember how upset I was when Sony called the $700 million-grossing Amazing Spider-Man 2 a "disappointment"? Now it's a disappointment because the film cost way too much to make and market, and didn't make that back worldwide. But still... Hollywood's scummy ways really rear their ugly head when a $700 million worldwide gross isn't enough to cover expenses. Batman v Superman is projected to finish with around $850 million or less, and that too will cause panic at WB. It already has...
This also comes off a pretty lackluster 2015. Warner Bros.' only big tentpole hit last year was San Andreas, while Mad Max: Fury Road did reasonably well for what it was. Everything else was a disaster, from Jupiter Ascending to Pan to In the Heart of the Sea. Films that were either screwed by bad release dates, really weren't all that audience-friendly, or screwed in post-production by the studio. Of course WB's executives get away scott-free.
Instead of planning to, you know, whittle down the damn budgets on these not-guaranteed tentpoles, Warner Bros. plans to cut back on mid-to-small films. Yes, films that could actually be profitable and are an essential part of a studio's slate. They'll only make exceptions for their "favorites", like Christopher Nolan (whose Dunkirk, a World War II drama, opens next year), Ben Affleck, Clint Eastwood, and such.
In addition to all this, over $10 million was spent on reshoots of DC installment Suicide Squad in order to make it more like the humorous, fun 'Bohemian Rhapsody' trailer. I ask... What the heck was it before that? Was it director David Ayer's movie through-and-through? (WB and their heads keep insisting that they are filmmaker-friendly unlike yucky Marvel) Or was it another mope-fest that made them worry once word got out that Batman v Superman's tone was going to be a problem?
Back to the slate... Now, it appears the rabbit will imitate the mouse. They want to focus even more on tentpoles than "homegrown" films.
Disney, with their own animation, Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel at their side, see no need for smaller or more original live-action pictures these days. The likes of The BFG, The Light Between Oceans, and Queen of Katwe will probably be their last of their kind. The mouse's logic is "Who needs them when we've got this?" The rabbit looks to do something similar, in their plans to restructure. What are the biggies they want to work off of? DC, Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts, and Warner Animation/Lego.
Not quite the heavies Disney has.
Legs are showing that the DC brand, and Superman and Batman alone aren't enough. Marvel themselves are not foolproof either, for their Ant-Man opened with a good but not spectacular $57 million last year, though it was saved when audiences who did see it on opening weekend spread the word that the picture was very entertaining. Fant4stic, despite being based on a well-known Marvel team and coming from the usually successful Fox/Marvel team, tanked because audiences didn't want to see what looked like an oncoming clunker. Clearly Zack Snyder and WB made a movie that a lot of audiences weren't satisfied with, bad reviews or no bad reviews.
This doesn't apply to WB and DC, only. Disney recently put little marketing oomph into Pixar's The Good Dinosaur, and guess what? The Pixar name didn't draw large crowds. Nothing is foolproof.
There's also talk of movement, talk of Snyder getting booted, and WB reconfiguring their DC slate. Justice League Part One may be in the balance, and I personally want for WB to A) have Snyder go back to doing what he does best, and B) push Justice League back and get solo Batman going for fall 2017. I'd like to see it go like this, actually: The Batman in fall 2017, followed by The Flash and Aquaman. Save Justice League for fall 2018 or 2019, trying to get it out before Marvel's Infinity War concludes could hurt them, and Marvel too. Marvel needs the competition.
Also... I think WB's management should've thought twice before letting Snyder direct Batman v Superman, if they were that upset about how Man of Steel did at the box office...
Right after they announced that homegrown projects are being phased out, the studio put out a new slate.
Wonder Woman is now set to open a few weeks ahead, on 6/2/2017. Two untitled DC films are now set for 10/5/2018 and 11/1/2019 respectively, in addition to all the other ones they slated back in 2014.
A new "event" picture is slated for 10/6/2017, joining the ones set for 8/11/2017 and 3/2/2018, and the New Line film set for 4/20/2018. The Andy Serkis-directed Jungle Book: Origins, which was previously set for 10/6/2017, will now open 10/12/2018. Probably a good idea to distance it a little further from Disney's live-action take, as they see that's going to take off, what with strong reviews out already.
Everything else, from Kong: Skull Island to Blade Runner 2 to Ready Player One, are thankfully still on the docket.
The next few years will see WB releasing equally risky big-budget pictures, they better hope they all do well. Maybe stay out of the creative process for once, market them well, and see what happens from there...
UPDATE (4/7/2016): Warner Bros. has already jettisoned their live-action movie based on Death Note, that was set to be directed by Adam Wingard of You're Next fame. It will be made for Netflix now... You could say they pulled a Teru Mikami on it. "Delete!"
What do you make of WB's current situation?