To say that it has been a wild week of entertainment news would be a little bit of an understatement, particularly when it comes to HBO Max and its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. On Tuesday it was announced that the previously announced and nearly finished Batgirl movie that had been planned for release on HBO Max was being shelved and would. not be released on any platform or in any format, reportedly with the film being used as a tax "write down". Other announcements followed, with the Scoob! sequel also being shelved by the streamer. On Wednesday, additional news followed with several original movies quietly removed from the platform and an animated series being cancelled despite a new season being completely finished. The announcements — all part of a larger overall change in strategy for the streamer — come ahead of the Warner Bros. Discover earnings call on Thursday and the DC decision in particular set off a lot of speculation about the fate of other in-development projects, both in terms of feature and series offerings, as well as projects that are already slated for theatrical runs. Much of that speculation has centered around a sort of "doom and gloom" reaction to the seemingly abrupt shifts when it comes to DC's offerings, but there's another way to look at this situation. Warner Bros. Discovery's shift in strategy for HBO Max might actually be a major opportunity for DC Film to finally find its footing.
When it comes to superhero entertainment the unvarnished truth is that DC Film certainly is not Marvel Studios. That's not necessarily a comment on which one is "better" as both DC and Marvel have fantastic characters and stories and, indeed, both have put out projects of high and low quality. But of the two, Marvel is a much more well-oiled machine that found its footing some time ago and has been steadily working along a path and a plan that consistently delivers. DC on the other hand is, to put it bluntly, a mess. The DCEU hasn't exactly panned out quite the way that was originally hoped for or planned for, particularly with the issues surrounding Justice League. With Zack Snyder's plan for an interconnected universe no longer the plan, while the setting remains, the direction has seemingly lost focus. On top of that, there are a whole batch of other films — such as Joker and The Batman — that are under the DC Films banner, but are entirely separate from the DCEU, some of them featuring characters that do appear in the DCEU which can get a little confusing. All of this without considering the various scandals and before you even start getting into the various announced and in development projects that may or may not be part of larger storytelling plans – if there is a plan – and the relatively recent reveals about a sort of DC "multiverse" that sees the return of Michael Keaton's Batman.
It's a lot to sort through, and while there are definitely some very interesting projects that were, at least until the last few days, possible in all of that and HBO Max itself a very promising platform to expand into, given the tangled mess that is the general direction of the DC live-action world, streaming may not be the right move at this point in time. There is certainly a place for streaming in the overall live-action superhero landscape. Marvel has more than proven that with its expansion into various series on Disney+ but again, Marvel has honed its universe and its process. You don't exactly see as many scattershot projects from Marvel the way you do with DC. DC needs to get its focus and its plan together before it can truly maximize its streaming offerings in a way that not only are advantageous to the company but resonate with fans as well.
And that leads back to the shift in strategy that's been coming down from Warner Bros. Discovery and the idea of opportunity. By shifting focus and resources away from making content for streaming, they can focus a bit more on tightening up their theatrical offerings and plan a better way forward. There are a number of approaches Warner Bros. Discovery could take with this — a nuclear option of completely wiping the slate and starting from scratch with a new DC Films head is an option, getting the major finished theatrical projects out the door and then taking a beat before proceeding is another, even exploring the idea of not trying to replicate Marvel's MCU is and instead center on more individual, well-crafted films is also an option — but shifting away from streaming as an outlet for original DC programming makes the space for that and it could be very good long run, leading to more consistent content that is lucrative and entertaining.
Ultimately, losing Batgirl and likely a number of other projects that were in the works to put it frankly sucks, not just for fans but for the people who put their hearts and souls into them. It is genuinely sad that some of these projects that mean so much to people won't see the light of day and that some very much needed representation isn't making its way to screen. But if Warner Bros. Discovery plays their cards right, what is grief today could be celebration tomorrow and could see DC finally get on a path to not replicate Marvel's success but truly bring the wide and wondrous stories of the DC Universe to life as never before.