Why did Warner Bros cancel its completed, $90 million Batgirl movie?

Vale, Barbara Gordon: we barely knew thee. Superhero movie fans and bamboozled film industry insiders were stunned to hear of Warner Bros. recent cancellation of Batgirl, a new standalone super-adventure starring Leslie Grace as the suited-up daughter of Commissioner Gordon.

Which might not seem like such a big deal at first. Great movies get cut down in development or even production all the time! Hell, Wikipedia has a particularly crushing list of unrealised Guillermo del Toro projects alone. Thing is, though, the film was in post-production and said to be practically complete. Why on earth would Warner Brothers spend $90 million dollars on a hotly anticipated film, and then not even simply dump it onto their various international streaming services?

WB’s first statement attributed the axing to cost-saving measures, with a spokesperson claiming that “the decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe”. With its relatively modest budget (for a blockbuster superhero film) of $80 million expanding a bit due to drawn-out COVID-19 filming measures, Batgirl is still notably cheaper than upcoming movies like Black Adam and The Flash (yikes).

Not big enough for the theatrical release that newly appointed Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was planning for the film, it would seem that counting Batgirl as a loss would simultaneously protect the hectic brand’s reputation, whilst also earning from a tasty tax write-down for the project’s failure. Surprise surprise.

A Variety article supposes that Warner Bros. would’ve had to spend around $30-50 additional millions to market the movie domestically and globally, even before dumping it pitilessly on HBO Max, BINGE, NOW, and other WB platforms. So they just…didn’t. The move makes a bit more sense in the context of WB’s chaotic streaming strategy, where they’ve been changing their minds about going all in on streaming or staying in theatres, and building news services for $300 million dollars that they then pull after one month of release.

With the film’s abrupt death, we’re losing another performance from J.K. Simmons as Jim Gordon, the hugely hyped return of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, and Brendan goddang Fraser as “sociopathic pyromaniac” villain Firefly.

Perhaps more devastating is the loss of such a high-profile opportunity for star Leslie Grace, whom audiences love after In The Heights, and directors Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah, who did such a great job over on Disney+ with their series Ms. Marvel. The poor sods were apparently at Arbi’s wedding when they heard the news : (

Of course this could all just be a big publicity ploy, trying to drum up the same grassroots fanboy anger and excitement as the tedious #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement surrounding superflop Justice League. Warner Bros will have to sit back and be treated like cinematic supervillains for a while in any case. The Tweets below compare their leadership to famous scammers The Producers and Nathan Fielder.

A $40 million dollar Scooby Doo holiday special entitled Scoob! Holiday Haunt also got sent to the doghouse, which is equally mind-boggling as the film already had a trailer! We scroll past these simple kind of specials constantly on Netflix, Disney+, and WB’s platforms, so it seems entirely cynical and money-grubbing that the studio would backtrack on a finished product with an enthusiastic, IP-loving audience of streaming subscribers.

Ah well. At least we’ll always have Batgirl in DC’s genius, under-sung Harley Quinn TV series and Alicia Silverstone’s depiction of Barbara Gordon in Batman & Robin. Which is great, right?