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Warner Bros. Discovery Outright Kills a Nearly Finished $90 Million Movie, 'Batgirl'

Warner Bros. 'Batgirl'
Warner Bros. Discovery reportedly killed 'Batgirl' outright to get the tax write-off. Batgirl doesn't even pay taxes. (Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

In a surprising move that could signal dramatic change up ahead for HBO Max, Warner Bros. Discovery has killed a $90 million film project, Batgirl, that's in the post-production stage.

Starring Dominican actress Leslie Grace in the title role alongside Michael Keaton and J.K. Simmons, with Bad Boys for Life filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah directing, Batgirl was part of a portion of the 2022 Warner Bros. film slate positioned for release directly to streaming service HBO Max.

The culmination of the spinoff of WarnerMedia from AT&T and $43 billion deal to merge the asset with Discovery, the newly minted and heavily leveraged Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to shed about $3 billion from its balance sheets right now. 

A $40 million animated feature, Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, was also shelved.

WBD didn't formally announce these decisions, but it was widely reported by the Penske Media Hollywood trade conglomerate and other publications.

Company insiders are saying the decision to kill the almost finished Batgirl isn't rooted in the film being a disaster. Rather, it's about protecting Warner's DC Comics brand from the damage that could be wrought from a mid-budget movie with limited star power.

A number of reports have suggested that killing the film outright has more to do with tax write-off reasons.

The news comes 48 hours before WBD will deliver its second quarter earnings report. It's believed that the newly merged conglomerate will have something to say about the rollup of Discovery Plus into HBO Max ... or could it be the shocking revelation that it's the other way around?

On Twitter Tuesday, following word of the surprise Batgirl scuttling, rumor ran amok in terms of what we might learn during Thursday's earnings call.

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With Discovery management, led by CEO David Zaslav, now running the combined company, sacred pillars of the erstwhile WarnerMedia strategy under former CEO Jason Kilar have been abandoned of late, including the bold, expensive move to shift HBO out of the Amazon Prime Video Channels wholesale market.

After all the blood and turmoil Kilar and company went through so that HBO Max could be experienced in its native app, not disaggregated by Amazon and other tech platforms, WBD is in the process of reintegrating it back into Channels.

Batgirl filmmakers El Arbi and Fallah reacted to the news on Instagram Wednesday.

"We are saddened and shocked by the news," they wrote. "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."

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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!