Batgirl is stuck in the shadows

If you’re ever feeling bad about your spending habits, this might cheer you up: Warner Bros. has canned its upcoming “Batgirl” movie despite shelling out US$90 million to make it. 

What happened: The latest DC superhero movie has been permanently shelved by the studio despite the fact it was pretty much finished (and boasted that hefty price tag).

  • The film featured big names like Brendan Fraser and Michael Keaton (reprising the role of Batman for the first time in 30 years) but is now unlikely to see the light of day.

Why it happened: “Batgirl” was made for Warner’s streaming partner HBO Max but shakeups at the top after a merger with Discovery led to a shift in strategy, with the studio focusing on theatrical releases instead of streaming.

“Batgirl” then got stuck in limbo, insiders told Variety. Too big to break even on streaming but not worth spending the extra tens of millions in marketing for a theatrical release, Warner decided that scrapping the whole thing and calling it a tax write-off was the best option. 

  • There were also reports that initial responses from test audiences were so overwhelmingly negative that executives believed the film was unsalvageable.
  • Studios rarely leave movies unreleased, but when they do, it’s usually for legal reasons or because of a problematic star (Netflix has projects starring both Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey somewhere in its vaults). 

Why it matters: Warner’s unprecedented decision is a testament to the studio’s lack of faith in a streaming industry struggling to prove it can grow and could lead to even more films being cancelled or shelved.