I promise, I will stop writing about Warner Bros. Discovery and HBO Max just as soon as they stop constantly shooting themselves in the foot. The latest in the “burning down one of the last legacy film studios before our very eyes” stories is that Warner Brothers has pushed two of its highest-profile films, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and Shazam! Fury of the Gods to new release dates in 2023. Shazam!, which was previously slated to open this December just one week after Avatar: The Way of Water, about as sure a death sentence as a film can receive, has been kicked to March 17, 2023. Aquaman then moved off that date to December 25, 2023. Aquaman’s original release date was December 16, 2022, so it now officially delayed a whole ass year.
The reason given for this is that Aquaman “needs more time in post”, which given the ongoing VFX crunch, is 100% believable. But The Hollywood Reporter also suggests Warners has a cash problem, and is spreading out their biggest movies—and thus the most expensive to market—in order to stagger those costs. That leaves just four films for them to distribute for the rest of the year: Don’t Worry Darling, Black Adam, House Party, and Bones and All. (They are only on the hook for UK distribution of The Lost King and Emily.) They will then not release a new film after House Party in December until March 2023. I know the industry is still recovering from all the COVID delays and production slates are wonky as hell right now, but that is NOT a good sign that the Warner Bros. coffers are healthy. They can’t afford to release potentially billion-dollar films!
Good job, everyone, but especially you, David Zaslav. I cannot emphasize enough that this guy’s reputation pre-this summer was as a milquetoast, inoffensive executive capable of forming productive talent relationships. Some people saw him as the second coming of Bob Iger, an unobjectionable suit who nonetheless has a soft touch with the capricious creatives who fuel Hollywood. Well, oh boy, kiss THAT reputation goodbye. “Zaz” now has creatives openly begging him on Twitter not to tank their movies for tax write-offs:
A letter to #DavidZaslav @WBD— Ivory Aquino (@MsIvoryAquino) August 25, 2022
Dear Mr. Zaslav,
I just read an article @THR about supposed â€˜funeral screeningsâ€™ of #Batgirl and the possibility afterwards that the film footage would be destroyed.. if this is the case, as one of many who poured our hearts into the making of this
Despite Ivory Aquino’s heartfelt plea, Batgirl is still toast. The studio screenings this week were “funeral” screenings, for (some of) those who worked on the film to see it before Warners sh-t cans it. They can’t ever release any part of it if they’re to get said tax benefits, it has to be a total loss. I continue to feel terrible for everyone involved with that film, becoming such a crass pawn in financial manipulations that aren’t helping the company at all. But wait! It gets worse!
Because Zaslav has also purged the ranks of executives at Warners, which has erased pretty much all of the progress made in diversifying the studios’ decision-making class. That layoffs would happen was not a secret, but it’s the precise erasure of inclusivity at Warners that is troubling. That, and word that Zaslav is courting “Middle America”, which just means rolling back attempts to tell different kinds of stories about different kinds of people in order to re-center straight, white, male protagonists. By re-homogenizing the executives with development and greenlight power, Zaslav is all but guaranteeing the film and television output will homogenize, too. Hoo raaaay, progress 2022.
Of course, the comeback is that shows like Euphoria, Our Flag Means Death, Rap Sh-t!, and A Black Lady Sketch Show all still exist on HBO/Max, and they’ve got films like Barbie and Blue Beetle still slated for next year. True! Just as it is true these are ALL projects inherited from the previous regime. Now that Zaslav has cleaned house and installed his “Middle America” team, let’s see what NEW stuff Warners and HBO start producing, as well as how long those shows survive under this new leadership. It increasingly feels like we’re standing in a slowly burning room, watching the real-time death of one of the last great movie studios.
Attached - Aquaman star Jason Momoa on his motorcycle in Malibu on the weekend.
Live long and gossip,