HBO Max Head of Original Content Sarah Aubrey recently revealed how the latest shuffle at Warner Bros., hiring James Gunn and Peter Safran to head DC Studios and the DCU, could mimic Marvel Studios.
In May 2020, Warner Bros. launched its marquee streaming service, HBO Max. Despite the streamer's name being slightly confusing and the feverish backlash of putting all 2021 releases in theaters and streaming simultaneously, it is the home of some of today's best content.
Some of these marquee titles are from DC, including The Batman, The Suicide Squad, and Peacemaker.
How Warner Bros. and DC will utilize HBO Max has been indecisive and missing a clear routine. After AT&T sold WB to Discovery, a merger of the two media conglomerates, new CEO David Zaslav has started to clear up some of the confusion.
To the chagrin of many fans (and the creators of the film), Batgirl was canned earlier this year. Starring Leslie Grace, Batgirl was originally set to be an HBO Max Original, then the studio audibled to a theatrical release, before finally being scrapped entirely. Blue Beetle was also supposed to stream exclusively, however, will now premiere in theaters on August 18, 2023.
Now under new leadership at DC Studios, HBO Max has an opportunity to reinvent itself and strategically intertwine projects in theaters and at home.
DCU to Continue Movie and TV Connections
Aubrey recently told Variety, "There’s not this territorialism around (DC) characters or stories."
The Warner Bros. Discovery executive confirmed that, in collaboration with Gunn and Safran, they talk openly about which projects should be a movie or a streaming series.
A very similar strategy has been in effect at Marvel Studios since early 2021, utilizing both Disney+ and major theatrical releases to tell an overarching story.
Recalling some conversations she's had, Aubrey said, "‘That would make a better feature,’ or ‘That character should start in a feature and then come into a series.’ Frankly, I imagine that will continue because it’s a big operation.”
That big operation is now known as DC Studios, headed by the Peacemaker (an HBO Max Original) director and producer. Aubrey appears confident in the new duo's decision-making moving forward:
“It’s a brilliant move to bring a filmmaker and producer into these executive roles for DC. I know from working with James and Peter on ‘Peacemaker’ that they have the creative passion, confidence and deep filmmaking expertise to chart a new course for DC that’s full of originality and exciting for both fans and filmmakers.”
The feeling is mutual as the co-CEOs of DC Studios released a joint statement in support of Aubrey:
“Working with Sarah Aubrey was and is truly the most perfect experience with a TV executive we could possibly imagine. Always supportive, always wise and strong and convincing when she needs to be."
Can HBO Max Become Disney+?
Good, bad, or ugly, it is undeniable that the Disney+ shows have further expanded the MCU. Step one for DC Studios is formulating a proper Cinematic Universe, but in 2022 that will more than likely also involve at-home television.
As Aubrey hinted, DC has already been using this formula. Specifically with Peacemaker being a direct The Suicide Squad spin-off and the upcoming Penguin series expanding Matt Reeves' The Batman universe.
An invaluable trait that executives can have in charge of universes such as Star Wars, Marvel, and DC is having an open mind in terms of what characters/projects should either be a film or series.
The introduction of individualized streamers beyond Netflix and Hulu has really opened up creativity at studios to produce shows like Andor and The Mandalorian.
However, the trap that fans don't want to see studios fall into is producing shows for the sake of strengthening the streamer. Disney+'s Obi-Wan Kenobi was originally planned as a film but became a series after the major success Lucasfilm has had streaming since 2019. One could argue that project could've, should've, and would've been a film if they had decided on what platform get suits this story.
Armor Wars is a wonderful example of a studio reevaluating what works best for an individual story and now giving Don Cheadle the leading role in his own iron movie.
As Gunn and Safran figure out there future of the DCU, HBO Max may play a major role, giving fans a similar experience to those currently invested in the Multiverse Saga of the MCU.