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Warner Bros. axes ‘Batgirl,’ won’t release $90M HBO Max film

Warner Bros. axes ‘Batgirl,’ won’t release $90M HBO Max film

In a highly unusual move that rattled Hollywood, Warner Bros. axed the “Batgirl” film planned for HBO Max, opting to shelve the $90 million film as the reorganized studio revamps its approach to streaming and DC Comics films.

The studio ultimately decided the nearly completed “Batgirl” didn’t merit either a streaming debut or a theatrical release. Warner Bros. instead is choosing to entirely write off the film starring “In the Heights” star Leslie Grace as Batgirl and co-starring Michael Keaton (returning as Batman), J.K. Simmons and Brendan Fraser. It was directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Production wrapped in April.

Warner Bros.′ decision, one without any obvious parallel in recent Hollywood history, sent shockwaves through the industry. When a movie doesn’t meet a studio’s expectations, it’s typically sold off or dumped quietly with little fanfare. “Batgirl,” greenlit before WarnerMedia’s merger with Discovery Inc., will instead simply not see the light of day.

“The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Grace is “an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance.”

The filmmakers learned of the studio’s decision shortly before the story broke late Tuesday. An early cut of “Batgirl” had recently undergone one test screening. And while its scores weren’t good, poor test results haven’t been infrequent for Warner Bros.′ DC releases nor has post-production drama. Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” was recut and reshot by Joss Whedon before a fan campaign led to the eventual HBO Max release of an edit by Snyder. The badly received 2016 “Suicide Squad” was followed by James Gunn’s similarly titled 2021 relaunch “The Suicide Squad.”

“We are saddened and shocked by the news. We still can’t believe it,” El Arbi and Fallah said in a statement Wednesday. “As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will insha’Allah (if God wills).”

The directors signed their statement, posted on Instagram, “Batgirl For Life.”

Late Wednesday, Grace posted on Instagram that she was proud of the work that went into “Batgirl.”

“I feel blessed to have worked among absolute greats and forged relationships for a lifetime in the process!” wrote Grace. “To every Batgirl fan –- THANK YOU for the love and belief, allowing me to take on the cape and become, as Babs said best, ‘my own damn hero!’”

Under new Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav, Warner Bros. is shifting its strategy on film releases and trimming costs. Under previous chief executive Jason Kilar and partly as a pandemic response, the studio implemented day-and-date releases in 2021, opening films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. Other films, like “Batgirl,” were produced solely for HBO Max.

This year, Warner Bros. has returned to exclusive theatrical windows for at least 45 days before sending movies to HBO Max. While “Batgirl” isn’t as pricey as many superhero films, which typically cost $150-200 million to make, it’s a bigger budget movie for an HBO Max title. Zaslav has maintained larger budgeted movies are best served by a theatrical rollout. But marketing a movie like “Batgirl” for that kind of release would require tens of millions more. Warner Bros. Discovery is set to report second-quarter earnings Thursday.

Warner Bros. also shelved “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” an almost-completed sequel to 2020′s “Scoob!” Producer and writer Tony Cervone confirmed wrote in an Instagram post that “the movie is practically finished and turned out beautifully. I am beyond heartbroken.”

The “Batgirl” cancellation comes as Warner Bros. is trying to revamp its DC Films operations. While “The Batman” earlier this year performed well with $770.8 million in ticket sales, Warners’ DC releases have been erratic and plagued by controversy. “The Flash,” scheduled for release next June, stars Ezra Miller who has been arrested twice this year in Hawaii, in a disorderly conduct case and on suspicion of assault.

Warner Bros. is hoping to reorganize and reset its DC pipeline — going bigger, not smaller with its rival Marvel. The more modestly scaled, streaming-only “Batgirl” didn’t suit those plans.

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Business

Disney overtakes Netflix in battle for subscribers

Disney overtakes Netflix in battle for subscribers

That put it just ahead of Netflix, which has been losing customers.

But Disney warned that its loss of streaming rights for cricket in India would reduce its subscriber growth compared to previous forecasts.

The firm, which also owns adult television streaming platform Hulu and the sports-focused ESPN+, said demand for its Disney+ product remained strong.

Pandemic lockdowns provided a boost to streaming services like Disney, but the easing of Covid restrictions doesn’t seem to be preventing it attracting new customers.

The company added 14.4 million Disney+ subscribers in the quarter, many of them outside of the US – far more than analysts had expected.

Later this year it will launch a new ad-funded service, which will still be charged at the current subscription rate of $7.99. The charge for the ad-free service will rise to $10.99 per month.

The firm plans to launch its ad-funded service outside the US next year.

Executives said they do not expect the rise in prices to put off customers over the long term. The firm is also seeing strong interest from companies hoping to advertise on the new service, they said.

“We are in a position of strength with record upfront advertising commitment,” chief executive Bob Chapek told analysts in a conference call to discuss the firm’s financial results.

Disney’s subscriber gains have come at a hefty cost, with its streaming business losing $1.1bn in the quarter.

Executives said they expect losses to peak this year, In the meantime, a strong rebound in attendance at its theme parks since the worst of the pandemic has provided the firm with a large financial cushion.

Total revenues in the April-June period jumped 26% from last year, pushing profits to $1.5bn.

Shares in the company jumped more than 6% in after-hours trade after the firm shared its results.

Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, called it a “pivotal moment in the streaming wars” saying Disney had more room to grow than arch-rival Netflix.

Netflix lost nearly one million accounts in the most recent quarter, putting its subscriber total at 220.67 million.

“[The results] firmly underline my belief that Disney is at a different phase of growth to Netflix,” said Mr Pescatore. “There are still millions of users to acquire as it continues to expand into new markets and rolls out new blockbuster shows.”

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Entertainment

New York Film Festival sets lineup for 60th edition

New York Film Festival sets lineup for 60th edition

The New York Film Festival will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a robust 32-film main slate and a number of hometown tales, including James Gray’s Queens coming-of-age drama “Armageddon Time” and Laura Poitras’ documentary “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” about artist Nan Goldin’s battle against the Sackler family.

Film at Lincoln Center, which puts on the annual festival, announced this year’s lineup Tuesday. The gala screenings are notably New York-centric, beginning with the previously announced opening night film, from longtime New Yorker and New York Film Festival regular Noah Baumbach. He’ll debut his Don DeLillo adaption “White Noise” shortly after it also opens the Venice Film Festival.

The festival’s centerpiece will be “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” in which the “Citizenfour” filmmaker chronicles Goldin’s fight to stem the opioid crisis and the pharmaceutical companies that benefitted from it.

Elegance Bratton, who drew from his own experiences in his documentary about homeless queer and transgender young people in New York in his documentary “Pier Kids,” will close out the festival with his semi-autobiographical fiction film “The Inspection,” starring Jeremy Pope as a gay man in Marine Corps basic training.

Gray’s “Armageddon Time” will screen as part of the festival’s 60th anniversary celebration. The film, which premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival, draws from Gray’s own childhood in 1980s Queens. It co-stars Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway.

Other entries include Todd Field’s anticipated “TÁR,” starring Cate Blanchett as a world-renown composer; Paul Schrader’s “Master Gardner,” starring Joel Edgerton as a horticulturist; Joanna Hogg’s “The Eternal Daughter,” with Tilda Swinton; master documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s “A Couple,” a monologue drama based on the letters of Leo Tolstoy and wife Countess Sophia Behrs.

Several standouts from this year’s Cannes will play at the festival including Charlotte Wells’ feature debut “Aftersun”; Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave”; Mia Hansen-Løve’s “One Fine Morning”; Kelly Reichardt’s “Showing Up”; Cristian Mungiu’s “R.M.N.”; and Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winner “Triangle of Sadness.”

Also among New York’s selections is the latest from Iranian director Jafar Panahi, “No Bears.” In July, Panahi, one of Iran’s leading filmmakers, was sent to prison for a six-year sentence related to a 2011 charge of producing antigovernment propaganda. His imprisonment has been widely decried internationally and in the film community.

The New York Film Festival runs Sept. 30-Oct. 16. Along with premieres at Lincoln Center, the festival will host screenings throughout New York’s five boroughs, at Staten Island’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema; Brooklyn Academy of Music; the Bronx Museum of the Arts; the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens; and the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem.

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Entertainment

Nicki Minaj to get Video Vanguard Award at MTV Awards

Nicki Minaj to get Video Vanguard Award at MTV Awards

Nicki Minaj will receive the Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Awards later this month, joining such previous winning music luminaries as Madonna, Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Jennifer Lopez and Missy Elliott.

Minaj, who has won five MTV trophies for such hits as “Anaconda,” “Chun-Li” and “Hot Girl Summer,” will get the award and perform at the ceremony on Aug. 28 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

“Nicki has broken barriers for women in hip-hop with her versatility and creative artistry,” said Bruce Gillmer, chief content officer of music at Paramount+ and president of music, music talent, programming and events at Paramount. “She has shifted the music industry and cemented her status as a global superstar with her crossover appeal, genre-defying style and continuing to be unapologetically ‘Nicki’.”

Jack Harlow, Lil Nas X and Kendrick Lamar are the top award contenders with seven nominations. Harlow, Lil Nas X, Drake, Bad Bunny, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles and Lizzo will compete for artist of the year.

Styles and Doja Cat received the second-most nominations with six. Sheeran, Billie Eilish, Drake, Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd each pulled in five.

Madonna, who is the most awarded artist in MTV history with 20 wins, becomes the only artist to receive a nomination in each of the VMAs five decades. She earned her 69th nomination for her 14th studio album “Madame X.”

Also performing will be Anitta, J Balvin, Marshmello with Khalid and Panic! At The Disco. More acts will be announced soon.

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