Warner Bros. Discovery CEO: ‘Not Going to Be Four Batmans,’ Zaslav Signals Plan to Unify DC Film Properties
When Warner Bros. Discovery announced it was hiring director James Gunn and producer Peter Safran to take charge of DC Studios, it sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry. The move meant that the company was serious about continuing to develop its comic book properties, despite the fact that they have often benn less well-received than the bulk of Marvel content being produced by Disney.
Earlier this month, WBD CEO David Zaslav said on the company's third-quarter earnings conference call that it was “focused on franchises” like DC, Harry Potter, and more. Then on Tuesday, Zaslav reiterated the company’s commitment to its DC slate at the RBC Capital Markets Global Technology, Internet, Media & Telecom Conference, but signaled that a major shift for DC may be underway.
“I think over the next few years, you’re going to see a lot of growth and opportunity around DC, there’s not going to be four Batmans,” Zaslav said.
That certainly seems to point to a strategic shift for the comic-based studio. Before Safran and Gunn came aboard, the company has had multiple storylines, universes, and versions of popular characters that had no connection to one another whatsoever. The plan was to unite some of these disparate parts around the upcoming “Flash” movie, built on the return of legacy Batman actor Michael Keaton. But Zaslav’s most recent comments suggest that the company may be looking to streamline that project or nix it altogether.
Since 2013’s “Man of Steel,” the company has released 11 theatrical titles in what it calls the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), a single cinematic universe that its biggest characters share. However, with Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” franchise and Todd Phillips’ “Joker” films both operating in their own separate cinematic universes, as well as the HBO Max series “Titans,” “Doom Patrol,” and “Harley Quinn” living in their own worlds — as well as multiple DC series on The CW, including the upcoming “Gotham Knights” — it means that things will likely have to change for DC.
From Zaslav’s comments, it sounds like he intends for the DCEU to be DC’s only cinematic universe going forward, similar to Marvel’s overall strategy in regard to its Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Disney did a wonderful job building Marvel. But if you had looked at Marvel and DC 10 years ago or 12 years ago, you would have said that DC is as good or better,” Zaslav said. “But the amount of value creation for Disney with Marvel, because it’s a connected universe with a bible, and they have an overall strategy.”
WBD hired Gunn to run DC after he wrote and directed “The Suicide Squad” and its HBO Max spinoff “Peacemaker,” but also helming the entire “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise for Marvel, so he has insight into crafting hits for screens large and small for both studios.
so, if WBD is looking to emulate Marvel’s blueprint, it may mean ditching some of the more popular recent DC offerings that don’t take place in the DCEU. “The Batman” has outperformed every recent DCEU movie at the box office, so it would be a real shock if its already-greenlit sequel were to be canceled. But after the company decided to mothball the nearly-finished $90 million “Batgirl” movie in favor of a tax write-off, no move should be considered off the table.
To be sure, WBD is not pulling back on its DC offerings. It has sequels planned for “Black Adam,” “The Flash” “Man of Steel,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Shazam!” in the coming years, all of which will take place in the DCEU, and fans shouldn’t be surprised to hear that even more DC films are being planned at the company in the near future. But, they also might not want to get too attached to any DC projects that don’t fall under the DCEU umbrella, because their futures might now be in doubt.
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