After ‘Batman vs. Superman’ Letdown, Warner Bros. Will Reportedly Release Fewer Films
Batman vs. Superman opened to negative reviews and mixed word of mouth. All that could have been forgiven if it was a box-office juggernaut, but after an impressive opening weekend, Dawn of Justice is sinking like a stone. With the film now unlikely to reach $1 billion — the new benchmark for franchise success in Hollywood — Warner Bros. may be making a drastic change to how they release future films, namely, releasing a lot less of them.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, following this latest disappointment, Warner Bros. is planning to scale back the amount of films they release in a given year to focus on their core franchises in an effort to improve the success of their release slate.
Warner Bros. is an old-fashioned movie studio. They’re not in the theme park business like Disney or the electronics business like Sony. They make movies; it’s what they do, and they do it more than almost anyone else. In 2015, they released an industry-leading 21 movies. Despite that output, they finished the year $800 million behind Universal Pictures in total box-office gross. It was a disappointing year for the studio with expensive flops like Pan, In the Heart of the Sea and Jupiter Ascending. And then came Batman vs. Superman.
Some of you may be quick to defend Batman vs. Superman, which has set some box office records, but as the THR article notes, with Batman and Superman — two of the most iconic characters across any medium — the film won’t cross $1 billion. By comparison, Jurassic World made $1.67 billion. As one THR source notes, “you can’t tell me Batman v. Superman is so much less valuable [than Jurassic World].”
So, what does this mean for the future of the DC Cinematic Universe? The article says that Warner Bros. executives were “shocked” by the scathing reviews and left flat-footed as to how to respond. They mention the growing rumors that a producer (George Miller?) may be added to Justice League to help guide the production, but a WB source insists, “we’re not going to take a movie that’s supposed to be one thing and turn it into a copycat of something else.” (No word, however, on the reshoots that were clearly designed to make Suicide Squad a more humorous movie.) Instead they’ll evaluate what went wrong with Batman vs. Superman and adjust accordingly for Justice League.
The new era of Warner Bros. seems likely to focus on their three main franchises: the DC Cinematic Universe, LEGO and Harry Potter. Some films, like The LEGO Batman Movie, will even combine multiple franchises.
At the very least, there is now increasing pressure on the remainder of the studio’s 2016 schedule — Tarzan, Suicide Squad, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — to perform. Another high-profile disaster could mean even bigger changes.