The future of the live-action DC multiverse has been speculated about at length in recent days, following the surprise cancellation of Batgirl by Warner Bros. Discovery. The film, which had completed production earlier this year and was already in the post-production stage, making its shelving a pretty surprising and unprecedented move. Reports in subsequent days have hinted at the reasons behind the cancellation, ranging from shifts in the larger DC continuity, to tax-related reasons — and new comments from Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav add even more context. When asked about the cancellation of Batgirl during the company's recent quarterly earnings call, Zaslav touted plans to better "protect" the DC brand, as well as a shift in releasing big movies exclusively on streaming.
"Our ambition is to bring Warners back and to produce great high quality films, and as we look at the opportunities that we have broadly, DC is one of the top of the list for us," Zaslav explained. "You look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman — these are brands that are known everywhere in the world. The ability to drive those all over the world with great story is a big opportunity for us. We have done a reset. We've restructured the business. We're going to focus. There will be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC. It's very similar to the structure that Alan Horn and and Bob Iger put together, very effectively, with Kevin Feige at Disney. We think that we could build a long-term much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC. And as part of that, we're going to focus on quality. We're not going to release any film before it's ready. We're not going to release a film to make quarter. The focus is going to be — how do we make each of these films, in general, as good as possible? DC is something that we think we could make better, and we're focused on it now. We have some great DC films coming up — Black Adam, Shazam!, and The Flash. We're working on all of those. we're very excited about them."
"We've looked hard at the at the direct-to-streaming business," Zaslav continued. "We've seen, luckily, by having access now to all the data, how direct-to-streaming movies perform, and our conclusion is that expensive direct-to-streaming movies, in terms of how people are consuming them on the platform, how often people go there or buy it, or buy a service for it, and how it gets nourished over time. It's no comparison to what happens when you launch a film in the theaters. So this idea of expensive films going directly to streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can't find an economic value for it. And so we're making a strategic shift, as part of that. We've been out in the town, talking about our commitment to the theatrical exhibition in the theatrical window. A number of movies will be launched with shorter windows. Some might have different kinds of marketing campaigns where we take advantage of having the biggest platform and a platform that all motion picture companies look for. But we'll always be agile. Our focus will be on theatrical, and when we bring the theatrical films to HBO Max, we find they have substantially more value. And we have an ecosystem where we can have the premiere motion picture business. That's why most people move to Hollywood. That's why most people got in this business to be on the big screen and the lights went out, that is the magic. And the economic model is much stronger. And the other thing is that we're going to focus very hard on quality. As I said — we're not going to launch a movie until it's ready, we're not going to go to movie to make a quarter, and we're not going to put the movie out unless we believe in it. And that's it, particularly with DC, where we think we want to pivot, and we want to elevate and we want to focus."
"The objective is to grow the DC brand, to grow the DC characters," Zaslav concluded. "But also, our job is to protect the DC brand, and that's what we're going to do."
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