Warner Bros. Discovery Puts Gunn, Safran in Charge of DCEU; Will Franchise be Revitalized on HBO Max?
The pattern of change at Warner Bros. Discovery is continuing unabated. The company announced on Oct. 25 that it was naming director James Gunn and producer Peter Safran as co-chairs and co-CEOs of DC Studios, which will replace the DC Films division of WBD.
The announcement represents a major shake-up at WBD. CEO David Zaslav has been looking for a replacement for former DC Films boss Walter Hamda for months, and after he officially left the company last week following the successful release of “Black Adam,” Zaslav did not waste any time announcing what he thought was the best talent available for the position. Gunn will be in charge of the creative side of the DC Extended Universe, while Safran will focus on the business and production aspects.
The two previously teamed up on the highly popular and successful “The Suicide Squad” film and spin-off “Peacemaker” series, both of which were hits for the inconsistent studio. Gunn has also had success within the Marvel Cinematic Universe helming the entirety of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise. Safran also produced both “Aquaman” and “Shazam!” films, and is behind 2023’s “Blue Beetle.”
“DC has among the most entertaining, powerful, and iconic characters in the world and I am thrilled to have the singular and complementary talents of James and Peter joining our world-class team and overseeing the creative direction of the storied DC Universe,” Zaslav said. “Their decades of experience in filmmaking, close ties to the creative community, and proven track record thrilling superhero fans around the globe make them uniquely qualified to develop a long-term strategy across film, TV, and animation, and take this iconic franchise to the next level of creative storytelling.”
Although the two have yet to make any major announcements regarding future content, given their impressive track records (both together and individually) it’s safe to assume they’ve got a roadmap in place. That being the case, given how vocal Zaslav has been about emphasizing theatrical releases in the new WBD, many DC fans might be wondering how much of that content might head directly to HBO Max.
The answer to that question is more complex than it appears on the surface. As part of an initiative to find $3 billion in budget cuts, Zaslav has stated repeatedly that the company is committed to giving big-budget films a long theatrical window and that spending big-screen levels of money on streaming-only films just isn’t financially viable. The company infamously canned its $90 million “Batgirl” film, despite the project being nearly complete.
“This idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value for it,” Zaslav said in the company’s second-quarter earnings report.
WBD’s international head Gerhard Zeiler said in September that the company would “probably focus more on the development of franchises” moving forward, suggesting that more theatrical DC projects were definitely on its corporate radar.
However, the placement of Gunn in such a high-ranking position suggests that perhaps HBO Max could still be a big part of DC’s future plans, as well. Gunn has quite a bit of experience in producing comic book content for streaming platforms, having created the “Peacemaker” TV series for HBO Max and the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” for Disney+. That experience has likely given WBD executives faith that he can execute DC projects intended for HBO Max without inflated budgets.
The move might seem at first to be a simple copy-paste of the strategy Disney has employed in growing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sending big-name movies to the screen and using TV series to fill in the gaps on streaming. But DC will continue to develop projects set in multiple cinematic universes, not the DCEU only.
That means that films like Matt Reeves’s “The Batman” will take place in a different Gotham than that of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” or Todd Phillips’ “Joker.” Gunn’s experience with more comedic DC projects and Safran’s tenure as a horror film producer of “The Conjuring” franchise will aid the two in maintaining different cinematic universes with different feels under the same DC umbrella.
By bringing in a pair of filmmakers who have had success on screens both large and small, it would seem to signal that WBD is still planning on investing in superhero content for its flagship streaming service. While that content might not be as big-budget as had been planned under the previous regime, it is encouraging for streaming subscribers to know that the company is not completely abandoning the platform solely in favor of theatrical DC releases.
It remains to be seen exactly what DC content can be expected on HBO Max in the future. But with Gunn and Safran in the driver’s seat at DC now, WBD will likely start developing more projects for its premium streaming service sooner rather than later.
HBO Max is a subscription video streaming service that gives access to the full HBO library, along with exclusive Max Originals. Subscribers will have access to hit HBO series like “The Last of Us,” “House of the Dragon,” “Succession,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and more.
HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-supported plan for $9.99 and ad-free plan for $15.99. HBO Max without ads also includes features like the ability to download offline and 4K streaming.
All HBO Max subscribers will get the full libraries of shows like “Friends”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “South Park”, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “The West Wing”, and more.
You can choose to add HBO Max as a subscription through Amazon Prime Video.