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Warner Bros, Where For Art Thou?
By Philip Schweier
October 21, 2014 - 09:33

On October 15, two headlines popped up on, shall we say, “another comic book news website.” I’d never claim to have much business savvy, but even I can tell they seem a bit contradictory. And like Oswald Cobblepot on Fox’s Gotham, I see disaster looming.

Headline: WB Announces DC Film Slate Through 2020

Photoshopped illustration of Gail Godot as Wonder Woman
”At a Time Warner investors meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 15, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara unveiled a schedule that features two big screen super-hero films per year, 2016-2020.”

Among the film projects announced is the currently-in-production Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Personally, I find this project a bit rushed, as I explained here. Scheduled for release the same year (2016) is a film version of Suicide Squad. That team has already been featured on Arrow. I question its value as a film project, but I had reservations about Guardians of the Galaxy, so what do I know?

For 2017, we have Wonder Woman and Justice League. No doubt a busy year for Gail Godot, whose casting as Wonder Woman has polarized the fan community. Many claim she’s wrong for the role. Maybe, maybe not. I prefer to reserve judgment until I’ve seen the finished product. Apparently, Warner Bros. executives feel otherwise, but it’s reasonable to believe they have the inside scoop. However, it remains to be seen what audiences will think of her in the role, and how successfully she and other actors can shepherd their respective characters into their own stand-alone projects.

Some reports identify the first Justice League movie as Part 1, leading some to expect two chapters of one overall story, with Part 2 scheduled for 2019. However, nothing is more dismaying to film-goers than to see part of story, but then disappointing box office figures result in the story never being completed. An example of that would be The Golden Compass.

In 2018, fans can look forward to the Flash. What’s that you say? There’s already a Flash TV series? Yes, we know. As of October 22, we’re three episodes into its freshman season, so it remains to be seen how successful the TV Flash will be. Is it realistic to think that a (hopefully) successful TV show can be equally successful on the big screen.

Ezra Miller
Oh, but it doesn’t have to. Y’see, Warner Bros. is discarding the TV show continuity in favor of a completely different version, starring Ezra Miller (yeah, we didn’t recognize the name either). It seems to me that if Warner Bros. wanted to invest in a rising young actor, it would have been more practical to start small by casting him in the TV series to begin with.

So if the TV series is successful, will its fans want to see another actor in the costume on the big screen? Doubtful. If the TV show fails, will anyone want to see another version on the big screen? Doubtful.

Also in 2018, Aquaman will (presumably) make the leap from lesser roles in Batman v Supetrman and Justice League to his own solo feature. Again, it remains to be seen how well Aquaman will resonate with mainstream audiences who perhaps view him as a bit of punch line.

TV’s Birds of Prey: Ashley Scott as Helena “The Huntress” Kyle; Dina Meyer as Oracle; and Rachel Skarsten as Dinah Lance, the teenage daughter of Black Canary
Assuming everything goes as planned, in 2019 and 2020 we will see big screen versions of Shazam, the aforementioned Justice League sequel, Cyborg and a reboot of Green Lantern.

Warner Bros. seems to be hitching its wagon to DC Comics properties, relying on them to bring in some pretty impressive numbers in the next decade or so. But here’s the flaw I see in that thinking: for every Smallville, there’s a Birds of Prey. For every Man of Steel, there’s a Superman Returns. For every Batman Begins, there’s a Batman & Robin.

Meanwhile, at the same investors meeting…

Headline: Warner Bros. seeks to cut costs by $200 million annually

With such special effects-laden movies on the schedule, many featuring major Hollywood talent in front of and behind the camera, it begs the questions as to how the media company expects to make such drastic cuts in its yearly operating budget.

To some degree, this will probably translate to lay-offs. Will executives get pink-slipped? Maybe, but not until the returns come in on the massive slate of film projects mentioned above.

No, the most likely candidates for the unemployment line will be the hourly wage-earners. Janitorial, secretarial, security, etc. The hard-working every day Joes like you and me, that still have to pay to see Warner Bros. films at their local cineplex. Granted, some positions may be eliminated by attrition, as people leave voluntarily and are not replaced.

So, what’s the solution? Well, for one, let’s tread a little more carefully as we race toward the end of the decade. Let’s not bite off more than we can chew, and instead work toward building quality products, rather than building a full schedule of super-hero films to help sell our comic books. Because it should be noted that a flop movie can lead to a flop comic book, and that does nobody any favors.

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara
Secondly, let’s see if we can adopt a “get by with less” approach to fiscal responsibility. Maybe some of the perks for high-level executives can be scaled back. Maybe some of the corporate resources can be stretched a wee bit further. Maybe a second glance at the budgets for various projects will reveal room for a bit of nip/tuck. Maybe some offices can be reconfigured to make better use of space, and redundant offices eliminated.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. And I’ll be the first to say I’m just guessing off the top of my head. But that’s just it. I’m coming up with possibilities without even trying. A corporation like Warner Bros. may end up paying massive consulting fees to another company that will tell them how to cut costs.

I know, business is crazy. And that goes double in Hollywood.

I genuinely hope these various projects succeed. Not just because I’m a DC fan, or because someone might lose their job (even if it’s the knucklehead executive who greenlit another Green Lantern movie). But because I’ve loved comic books for more than 40 years, and I want others to have the feeling I got in December, 1978. Sitting in a darkened theater, I believed not only that a man could fly, but that super-hero movies could have mass market appeal, even though this particular movie was made especially for me.

Now pardon me, but I have launch my website for a Sgt. Rock feature film.

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