And so the Warner Bros. shuffle begins
After the antipathetic public reaction to Superhero Face Punch, it seemed inevitable that Warner Brothers would have to make some changes to their plans for the DC Extended Universe, which is what they’re calling their cinematic universe. But they stuck with Zack Snyder as the director of The Justice League Part One, and they aren’t slowing down that train at all, so just what those changes would be remained a question.
Then, this morning, some potential answers. First it was the news that Warners will trim down its release slate in order to focus more heavily on its trio of franchise properties: DC, Harry Potter, and LEGO. So, the lesson being taken away from the box office free-fall of Superhero Face Punch is to make less original films. Gotcha.
Now comes the news that Warners is adding a couple untitled DC films to their slate in 2018 and 2019, respectively—I’ll guess Solo Batfleck #1 and Suicide Squad #2—as well as shuffling Wonder Woman’s release date next year. That movie now opens on June 2, 2017, which puts it smack dab in the middle of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man 3.0. It’s a smart move as it gives Wonder Woman all of June to play, but man, if superhero fatigue ever does set in, it may well be in summer 2017.
But the really surprising thing on the updated Warners slate is Andy Serkis’s Jungle Book adaptation being kicked to 2018, and not cancelled altogether. Disney’s Jon Favreau-directed Jungle Book opens in a couple weeks and has started screening for press and the early word is rapturous. After the Super Bowl trailer debuted I said, “If they nail the story AND it looks this good? Instant classic.” By all accounts, Favreau and his team hit that sweet spot, and Jungle Book is expected to open well, and go on to be a new classic for Disney, which would be #2 for the year, following Zootopia.
Here’s some back room bitchery to go along with all this. Back in 2011 Warners sacked Alan Horn, their studio chairman. Horn ran Warners for over a decade and ushered such films as The Departed, the Harry Potter franchise, and the Dark Knight Trilogy onto the screen. It was an ugly ouster, not well handled by Warners’ parent company, TimeWarner. Horn brought the studio incredible success—they topped market share in both volume and box office for several years under his control—and he deserved a better exit than what amounted to being unceremoniously dumped on prom night.
Enter Disney. In 2012 they named Horn chairman of Disney Studios, and under his guidance Disney became the dominate force in cinematic pop culture. Horn is managing a film group that includes Marvel, LucasFilm, Pixar, and the rejuvenated Disney Animation, and the results have been incredible so far. Disney is looking at another banner year in 2016, with one major win already on the books and Jungle Book set up to be their next success story. Alan Horn has turned Disney into an unstoppable juggernaut. Sort of makes you wonder how Superhero Face Punch would have turned out with his supervision.
Attached - Lupita Nyong’o at the Los Angeles premiere of The Jungle Book the other day.