Warner Bros. blew up the internet when it made a drastic move that quite literally shocked the entire industry: it canceled Batgirl. The movie, which starred Leslie Grace in the leading role, was set to be an exclusive film for HBO Max which would introduce the titular member of the Bat Family to the big screen.
But now, the DC Comics adventure, directed by Ms. Marvel’s Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi, will never see the light of day. The real kicker? The movie was almost completely finished.
Not only will Leslie’s Barbara Gordan not make it to households across the world but neither will Michael Keaton’s return as Batman. After The Flash received its big delay a while back, many fans were unsure what it meant for Batgirl—no one would have guessed this to be the outcome.
But what does Warner Bros. itself have to say about it?
Why Did Warner Bros. Ax Batgirl?
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. gave its first statement about its controversial move to cancel Batgirl, which was almost entirely completed.
According to the studios themselves, the drastic decision to ax Batgirl “reflects [their] leadership’s strategic shift” and that it was “not a reflection of [Leslie Grace’s] performance:”
“The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max… Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor, and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts, and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.”
Variety noted that the studio felt the movie was “neither big enough to feel worthy of a major theatrical release nor small enough to make economic sense:”
"Batgirl found itself on the bad end of that decision, apparently neither big enough to feel worthy of a major theatrical release nor small enough to make economic sense in an increasingly cutthroat streaming landscape. Spending the money to expand the scope of Batgirl for theaters — plus the $30 million to $50 million needed to market it domestically and the tens of millions more needed for a global rollout — could have nearly doubled spending on the film, and insiders say that was a non-starter at a company newly focused on belt-tightening and the bottom line.”
The most likely reason for the cut is tax reasons. The outlet pointed out how several of their sources say that Warner Bros. “will almost certainly take a tax write-down” on the project, but in doing so, the studio would “[not be able to] monetize [the] movie:”
“Releasing the movie on HBO Max would seem to be the most obvious solution. Instead, the company has shelved 'Batgirl' — along with the 'Scoob!' sequel — and several sources say it will almost certainly take a tax write-down on both films, seen internally as the most financially sound way to recoup the costs (at least, on an accountant’s ledger). It could justify that by chalking it up to a post-merger change of strategy. Doing so, however, would mean that Warner Bros. cannot monetize either movie — no HBO Max debut, no sale to another studio.”
Deadline called attention to the fact that Batgirl’s directors Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah were both “in Morocco for El Arbi’s wedding,” and the two “expected to return to the cutting room and continue work on the film:”
"The makers of the live action Batgirl and the animated Scoob! learned today that those films were being stopped in their tracks. The timing was particularly awkward for Batgirl co-directors Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah. Both are in Morocco for El Arbi’s wedding — some wedding present — and they expected to return to the cutting room and continue work on the film that stars Leslie Grace, J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser, and Michael Keaton."
But was there any chance this move had anything to do with the movie’s quality? The outlet noted that “the film tested once, and the result wasn’t that bad,” even with a cut that included temporary visual effects.
An Irredeemable Play by Warner Bros.
This move is almost incomprehensible—nothing like this has happened in recent memory. Even longtime industry professionals are completely shocked.
Even worse is that with this potentially being used as a tax write-down, the world will never release it. The studio won’t be able to just throw it onto HBO Max. Given its use for financial relief, it would become tax fraud if Warner Bros. were to monetize it in any way, even if only casually.
It’s an egregious move by the studio, one that’s bound to alien any talent, both in front of and behind the camera, who may ever consider working for the company. They’ll certainly be thinking twice about it now.
Leslie Grace, especially, deserved more than this. The actress was excited to bring to life Batgirl and all of that time she put into making the character the best she could is now down the drain as if it never even happened.
This also doesn’t bode well for Michael Keaton’s Batman. The character had a few scenes in the project which will no longer exist. He also had a cameo in the upcoming Aquaman sequel, but due to The Flash’s release date change, that also had to be adjusted. Could WB simply ax The Flash as well? Completely nixing Keaton’s grand return entirely?
There are so many questions and an almost unbearable amount of uncertainty for fans and professionals alive.
Batgirl is not expected to hit theaters or HBO Max at any point in the future.