Dear Gossips,

Last week in Friday’s What Else, I mentioned that Warner Bros. Discovery was going to shelve another completed film for a tax write-off, the victim being live action/animation hybrid Coyote vs. Acme, a movie about Wile E. Coyote suing Acme for all its faulty products which never help him succeed in catching the Roadrunner. The film is complete and was reportedly testing very well, yet WBD decided to take a $30 million write down instead of releasing it in any form, as they previously did with Batgirl and Scoob! 2. Well, since then, a situation has developed.


While the filmmakers behind Batgirl and Scoob! 2 did not take the sh-tcanning of their films lying down, they also weren’t Coyote producer James Gunn, who isn’t just one of the most recognizable filmmakers working, he’s also the co-chief of DC Studios. He has pull within Warners itself, and Coyote vs. Acme star John Cena was reportedly also unhappy with the film being shelved. According to Matthew Belloni in his Puck newsletter, there was a “heated back and forth” between Warners and the director and stars of the film. 


I also heard from a desk at a major agency that talent was on the phone, asking for meetings with Warners to be cancelled. THIS is what I was waiting for—for the talent that can afford to pick and choose where they work to stop working with Warners. No one liked the cancellation of Batgirl and Scoob! 2, but everyone also knew Warners was saddled with an insane amount of debt after AT&T’s short, disastrous ownership (it almost looks like AT&T bought Warners just to dump debt onto it and then offload the company, and their debt), and the new WBD entity was taking drastic action to stave off collapsing under the debt mountain. It was unpleasant, but to many, not more unpleasant than shutting down a production that is already ongoing, such as when Australian comedian Tim Minchin’s animated musical film, Larrikins, was kiboshed by Universal after they bought Dreamworks. At the time, he was deep into production after years of development and pre-production.


But while Warners remains financially unstable, THIS time, cancelling a completed film thoroughly spooked everyone. In my opinion, it’s because they did it to a film that has James Gunn and John Cena attached—they’re big names, marquee names, hell, Gunn is part of Warners! I think people thought these tax cancellations would be rare, and would be reserved for, well, films with less juice flowing through them. But Warners has now shelved films two years in a row, making it appear to be part of their annual financial planning, and if Gunn can have a project cancelled by his own studio, if John Cena can have a film cancelled, clearly, no one is safe. And so people started calling and cancelling meetings.

And that scared Warners so badly they’re now willing to risk looking like idiots by selling the film to another studio. They’re screening the film for streamers this week, with Amazon emerging as a frontrunner since their current film boss, Courtenay Valenti, backed the film while she worked at Warners. Of course, the risk is that one of these other companies picks the film up and turns it into a hit, though the fact that they’re focusing on streamers makes me think they won’t want to make a deal that includes theatrical distribution. The LAST thing David Zaslav and his anti-art team want is for someone else to turn Coyote vs. Acme into a blockbuster, they would look like such f-cking idiots if that happened. 


But even if they sell Coyote to someone else, Warners might still have to answer to Congress for this f-ckery. In what may well be political grandstanding but is a good idea anyway, Texas representative Joaquin Castro called the practice of scrapping completed films for tax breaks “predatory” and “anti-competitive”, and said the Justice Department and FTC should “review” the practice as part of revised antitrust guidelines. Please, I am begging you, someone drag David Zaslav into a congressional hearing and let AOC and Katie Porter read him for filth. 

We’ll see what happens with Coyote vs. Acme. I bet we end up seeing this film eventually, even if only as a streaming exclusive. And I hope this entire fiasco serves as a shot across the bow of the rest of Hollywood, that cancelling films for tax breaks sucks, and you shouldn’t do it. If you need to save money, cut your f-cking executive pay—David Zaslav was rated the most overpaid CEO last year. Speaking of David Zaslav, he told The New York Times that AMPTP “overpaid” to end the writers’ strike. Oh no how sad for them.

Live long and gossip,