It was reported this week that Warner Bros. had decided to stop publishing entirely bat girl, an adaptation of the DC Comics character. The film was originally approved as an HBO Max exclusive, but now the new corporate regime at Warner Media seems to have decided that it will not receive any distribution whatsoever. Rumors swirled that test screenings were awful, although insiders told it diversity that the quality of the film had nothing to do with the decision to be able to do it. Rather, it came from “a desire for the studio’s roster of DC features to be on blockbuster scale.” Given that, this seems sketchy at best bat girl still had a budget of around 90 million US dollars and had finished filming. It’s not uncommon for films to be shunned from their own studios in this way, but it’s exceedingly rare, especially since this is a big franchise with a well-known character and big stars in the cast.
Nowadays, the idea of something being 100% inaccessible feels almost mythical. Lost media continues to be an internet fascination and the subject of many YouTube videos because it seems inconceivable to younger generations that we don’t have everything at hand. We become obsessed with the most absurd and grotesque things simply because we can’t see them right now. Such things inspire conspiracy theories that border on the baroque. There is something alluring about the idea that a work of art is so wrong, so radical and controversial and disturbing that it must remain hidden from innocent eyes. consider The day the clown cried‘Jerry Lewis’ amazingly misguided concentration camp film, which he kept closed to the public when he realized what a horrible mistake he had made. More often than not, however, films that go unreleased are victims of mundane business decisions.
Remember The king’s daughter, a baffling historical fantasy romance that landed in a handful of theaters just seven years after it was originally slated for release? That’s a rare instance where the film was actually seen by audiences, but the story behind its endless delay is essentially the default setting for the unreleased film’s dilemma: Make a fuss in pre-production, then vacate as quickly as possible on. Maybe you can make a few promises to eventually release the film, but no one believes such claims. There are rumors about internal problems, bad test screenings, conflicts between director(s) and producers. The actors stop being asked about his release. If you’re lucky, only nerds like me will remember you even promised a movie.
There are instances where films are withdrawn for reasons that could be more sinister than just business. In recent years, a number of Chinese films have been pulled from the schedule days before audiences were supposed to see them. The big budget adaptation of The three body problem remains unreleased due to rights issues and infighting at the studio, but some have theorized that it may have been a political move. Zhang Yimous One second was supposed to be shown at the Berlin Film Festival before being withdrawn due to “technical difficulties”, a fate that also befell him better days. “Technical reasons” is considered code for “government censorship.” In 2016, the Chinese government passed a law banning film content deemed harmful to the country’s “dignity, honor and interests”.
Nor the bat girl Fall still feels unique. Most unreleased films are low-stakes operations or ones that have not been positioned as major franchise tentpoles based on iconic characters. They’re not that keen on it, nor is the pre-production coverage that detailed. And remember, this movie wasn’t even made for the cinema. It should be a streaming title. So for a home film to be thrown away in this way is really bananas.
Another report from diversity gave an embarrassingly mundane reason for the decision: taxes. As Warner Media undergoes another regime change thanks to its merger with Discovery Inc. last year, the company is a clearing house. It’s common for new bosses to sideline their predecessors’ projects, either as a cost-cutting measure or D**k-gauging competition. Even before he took over as CEO of newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery this spring, David Zaslav made it clear that he wanted to reverse the company’s strategy of releasing big films in theaters and at home simultaneously. Instead of increasing spending bat girl To adapt it to these new expectations, they opted for a tax write-off. It is more financially advantageous to discard your film than to let people see it. After all, this is content, not art.
And that feels so damn toxic bat girl Chaos. It’s the dauntingly predictable conclusion of an industry-wide mindset that sees profit as the sole motivator. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Even I’m not optimistic enough to believe that Hollywood was ever primarily inspired by artistic vitality and the enrichment of culture. But this current era feels particularly powerful in its corporatized madness, its single-minded willingness to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory at every turn. Not even reducing each slide to one product can save them from this mess. What does it say about Hollywood when a finished production, with an eager following waiting for its release, is worth less than a tax write-off? If you’re a director, an actor, a fan, or just someone with a little interest in cinema, why would you ever want to work with Warner Bros. Discovery again?
I think we’ll see bat girl in any form, manner or form. Don’t be surprised if someone leaks it to Pirate Bay, if only to allow people to see all the hard work that went into it from a creative team that cared a lot more about them than the CEO. I don’t expect this one to end up in a vault or be featured in a future Lost Media Iceberg YouTube video. Nevertheless, one cannot help but wonder whether this fate will befall many more films in the future.
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Header Image Source: Warner Bros.