Reversing course on an earlier decision, Warner Bros. Discovery will allow director Dave Green to shop his Looney Tunes movie Coyote vs. Acme to third-party distributors.
According to Penske showbiz trade reports, screenings are being set up for potential distributors, with Amazon being a leading acquisition candidate. As the Penske trades noted, Courtenay Valenti, currently the head of film, streaming and theatrical for Amazon Studios and MGM, was instrumental in the hybrid CGI/live-action film's green-lighting while serving as president of production and development at Warner Bros.
Budgeted at a reported $70 million and starring John Cena, Coyote vs. Acme is the third finished film to be removed from the release schedule by Warner Bros. Discovery, following Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt, with the studio looking to save money on taxes and residuals. WBD took a $30 million write-down to get the Coyote vs. Acme off its books.
However, the WBD management team got blowback last week on social media -- starting with a tweet by filmmaker Green -- suggesting the impact on its creative community relationships might be even worse than its Batgirl fiasco back in August 2022. Green's tweet has garnered more than 1.4 million impressions so far. (While WBD CEO David Zaslav didn't mention Coyote vs. Acme during the company's Q3 earnings report last week, he did say, "We recognize that we need our creative partners to feel valued and rewarded" while referencing the end of the SAG-AFTRA strike.)
pic.twitter.com/MoUX7xqwr1November 9, 2023
Green and his team, who were looking at three years of their working life being erased in a book-keeping move, seemed to feel neither valued nor rewarded.
I’m so proud of the movie and my heart breaks for all the talented people that made it happen only to see their art erased in favor of accounting. Wile E. will always be a part of me. Thanks @dgreenmachine for taking me along on this journey. pic.twitter.com/x1UawEDAk5November 9, 2023
According to the Penske trades, the decision to axe Coyote vs. Acme didn't come from WBD CEO David Zaslav, but rather Warner Bros. film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, along with animation head Bill Damaschke, who were reportedly looking to "protect the Looney Tunes IP and also scrub the studio of product developed by the previous administration."
The Penske pub said it was questionable as to whether the trio had actually seen a finished version of Coyote vs. Acme.
The reversal to let Green shop the project outside the studio reportedly came from this group, as well. Certainly, it could prove risky to Warner's management reputation if the film ends up performing well in the market.
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!