Batgirl, the superhero movie that the public will never see, had such weak commercial prospects that executives at Warner Bros. Discovery decided it was worth more to the company as a tax write-off than as a theatrical release or a direct-to-streaming title.
Warner Bros. Discover CEO David Zaslav chose to permanently shelve Batgirl and take a tax write-off on the $90 million project, according to multiple reports. The movie, which will skip cinemas and HBO Max, not only re-imagined the title character as a Latina but also marked the DC movie universe’s first attempt at a transgender character with trans actor Ivory Aquino in a supporting role.
It remains unclear if Warner Bros. Discovery will be able to write off the entire $90 million Batgirl budget or just part of it.
The accounting maneuver is emerging as a popular strategy at the newly merged company. HBO Max recently removed several movies that debuted exclusively on the streamer, including An American Pickle, starring Seth Rogen, and the Robert Zemeckis-directed The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway, according to a Variety report.
Indiewire reported the content being targeted for removal tends to be shows and movies that are not performing well on the service but that can be turned into a tax write-off. By removing a title from distribution, the studio will use the movie’s remaining cost balance to reduce taxable income.
1. MARTIN SCORSESE: Superhero films aren't cinema, they're a film-like product released by studios who don't really care anymore.
FANS: Fuuck yooou.
2. WARNER BROS: Under U.S. tax laws, it would make us more money to shelve 'Batgirl' forever than release it.
FANS: Wait a second.
— ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡Liam… MCENEANEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (@HeyItsLiam) August 3, 2022
Batgirl also appears to have fallen victim to changing preferences at Warner Bros. imposed by the studio’s new owners.
The company has instated a theatrical imperative for its superhero tentpole titles, and appears to be willing to spend big to ensure those movie become must-see events. Meanwhile, it is reducing spending on direct-to-streaming movies.
Batgirl appears to have fallen in between the cracks — not quite big enough for cinemas but still too expensive to be relegated to streaming.
Batgirl reportedly screened for at least one test audience and scored in the lows 60s, according to a report in The Hollywood Reporter. The score was not seen as disastrous since movies with similar test-audience scores have gone on to become box-office hits.