After spending $90M on “Batgirl,” Warner is scrapping the flick as priorities shift from streaming to screening

Friday, August 5, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |
Leslie Grace, the star of “Batgirl” (Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Leslie Grace, the star of “Batgirl” (Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Bye, bye, Batgirl... Warner Bros splurged $90M to produce "Batgirl," a movie based on the DC Comics character. Warner was planning to release it directly to its HBO Max streamer. Five years after the project kicked off, “Batgirl” was basically ready to go — but the public won’t see it.

  • Warner Bros. Discovery is axing “Batgirl,” which won’t be released on HBO Max or in theaters. FYI: studios rarely scrap finished productions.
  • Losing stream: The movie, starring Leslie Grace as Batgirl and Michael Keaton as Batman, was greenlighted last year as part of a push to create buzz-worthy features for HBO Max.
  • Gaining screen: Under new execs, Warner Bros. Discovery has pivoted its focus back to theatrical blockbusters as moviegoing recovers. It’s also scrapping its made-for-streaming “Scooby-Doo” movie, which reportedly cost $40M.

Why not let “Batgirl” fly?… Insiders say the decision had nothing to do with the film’s quality, but was a result of shifting priorities. Remember when Warner’s then-CEO Jason Kilar decided to release all of Warner’s 2021 films on HBO Max at the same time as theaters? That’s not happening this year. Current CEO David Zaslav seems committed to box-office hits.

  • Marketing $$: Studios need to market movies, and it would’ve cost between $30M and $50M to advertise “Batgirl” in the US alone — never mind globally.
  • Awkward: While “Batgirl” may not be big enough for a global theatrical release, it’s likely too expensive to make sense for streaming alone.
  • Write it off: Sources say Warner Bros plans to recoup some of its losses by taking a tax write-down on the film. But that would mean it can’t monetize it.

The “sunk-cost fallacy” doesn’t always apply… Sure, Warner threw $90M into this movie. But studios need eyes on their productions, and Warner likely thought the marketing costs for “Batgirl” weren’t worth it. Now it’s cutting its losses, and not without reason: Yesterday, Warner revealed that it swung to a $3.4B loss, in its first earnings since merging with Discovery. Shares tanked 12%.