Report: Warner Bros. May Release Fewer Movies After Batman v Superman Underperforms

Wednesday, 06 April 2016 - 11:08AM
DC Comics
Batman
Batman v Superman
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 - 11:08AM
Report: Warner Bros. May Release Fewer Movies After Batman v Superman Underperforms
Warner Bros. is having a rough go of it. After three huge blockbusters massively flopped last year--Jupiter Ascending, Pan, and In the Heart of the Sea--they were pinning a lot of hopes on their first big 2016 release: Batman v Superman. But while BvS will certainly make a profit, it likely won't come close to living up to expectations, and THR's industry sources are saying that Warner Bros. is reeling, so much so that it will change their game plan for the future. 

Batman v Superman opened big, as one would expect with two iconic superheroes in the title, with a record-breaking $166 million domestic opening, setting highs for March and for DC superhero movies. But the critics lambasted the film and the word-of-mouth from fans was decidedly mixed, leading to an extremely concerning 69% drop in its second weekend. That's the biggest drop for a superhero movie, aside from the 2003 Hulk's 70%, and caused BvS to make less than Deadpool in its second weekend. According to insiders, BvS will make some money, but won't be an unqualified success. 

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Some competitors say the film may turn a profit but hardly will be the money gusher studios hope for when they pour massive resources into making a giant tentpole with a big star - with a budget in this case said to be in excess of $300 million, and Ben Affleck. "The biggest problem," says the head of a rival studio, "is that it is not turning [DC] into Marvel. The audience has communicated, as have the critics." One agent notes BvS likely won't get to $1 billion despite launching the universe with "two of the most iconic characters in history." Pointing out that Jurassic World pulled in $1.67 billion globally, he continues, "you can't tell me Batman v. Superman is so much less valuable."
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It's probably unfair to say that BvS is a failure simply because it's "not turning DC into Marvel," since DC has always tried to be distinct from it in certain ways. But they inevitably drew comparisons by rushing into this extended cinematic universe, and BvS at least needed to be a big success to begin to compete with the MCU. According to THR's report, there were rumors that Warner Bros. was considering making some huge changes, like taking Zack Snyder off of Justice League, but that seems to be untrue. A source at Warner Bros. said that while they will try to pinpoint where they went wrong with BvS, when it comes to Justice League, "we're not going to take a movie that's supposed to be one thing and turn it into a copycat of something else."

Warner Bros. has always been an industry leader, especially when it comes to number of releases. Last year, they released 21 films, this year they have 18 on the schedule, and they're projected to release 19 next year. They have vehemently denied that there is any change to the slate, but the rumors are swirling that they will be much more cautious about which projects they choose to produce, and will focus more on their biggest tentpole properties: DC, Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts, and LEGO.

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"It's not dramatic, but it is uncharted territory for them," [a source close to Warner Bros.] says. "They were always filmmaker-driven - that might now not be the case as much. They had a bad 18 months. How could there not be some kind of reaction to that?" Says another executive with business at the studio: "It's a strange path to a greenlight now. It takes longer."
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It's hard to say exactly what that means for the DCEU, although for now, it puts a lot more pressure on Suicide Squad (and hopefully gets their asses in gear for that Ben Affleck-directed Batman movie). There's already more positive buzz surrounding Suicide Squad, and Warner Bros. is reportedly spending millions on reshoots to make it even better, so they're really putting their eggs in David Ayer's basket:

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"Time Warner has some work ahead," said Steve Birenberg of Northlake Capital Management, "and it would be helpful if the next movie in the DC relaunch were more widely praised."
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