It is footage heard around the world – or at least around the lobbies of social media. This week, Warner Bros. shot a bullet in the head of Bat girl, cancel the release of the film when the film is nearing completion. It was an unprecedented decision indeed. Nearly $100 million was poured into production; Filming has been completed. Michael Keaton has been set to reprise the role of Batman for the first time in 30 years. Warner Bros. said the decision to shelve it was a “strategic shift” by leadership; The pivot follows a sizable management change at the upper levels of the company. But what people actually hear, whether they know it or not, is not a “bang” but a “pop”. For all intents and purposes, the great streaming bubble may have just burst.
Notable things about Bat girl, you see, it’s not that it was denied a theatrical release. The sad thing is that this happens all too often with movies these days, even the high-budget ones. If you’re worried something is about to fail, keep streaming. (During the height of the pandemic, when failed cinema releases were inevitably nailed, streaming or combo releases were especially rampant – films from Wonder Woman 1984 arrive Sand dunes arrive Matrix Recovery all released immediately upon streaming in the US). The point is that Warner Bros. probably decided more of the profit to be made from the tax write-off would come from abandoning the project altogether than dumping on its HBO Max streaming service. And they are not wrong.
Has streaming ever really made sense? Of course, I don’t mean technology – the sheer convenience of watching movies and TV series over the internet means that most people will never accept a return to the world of public physical media. bulky. But financially, streaming has always existed solely on emotions. It never made good business sense for Netflix to release movies that could easily fetch $100 million in live cinema – throwing away millions of cold, hard cash in exchange for silly appeal. of “branding” and “streaming exclusivity”. You can’t build an entire business around exponential subscriber growth; eventually, as we saw earlier this year, you will simply run out of new customers.
The fact that Netflix is starting to pave the way for a new level of ad-supported subscribers shows that the company is questioning the sustainability of its business model. Ad-supported TV has been the best, most lucrative way to monetize home programming for over a century. Streaming is never likely to take over this throne in the long run, more than paid cable subscriptions did at the end of the 20th century. For cinema, the most profitable way to distribute movies is by theatrical release; The dream scenario can see companies making billions from a movie only a few hundred thousand to make and promote. Scaling a feature on “straight to DVD” or “straight video” is often a sign that a studio has abandoned its financial prospects. The “Straight Stream” feature doesn’t share the stigma of its physical media predecessors, but it’s hardly more helpful in getting a return on investment.
But back Bat girl. The DC Comics adaptation isn’t the only casualty in Warner Bros. Scoob! Holiday haunting – sequel to Scooby Doo’s dull prequel Scoob! – was canceled at the same time, although most were animated. Several TV series have also been curated by HBO Max in recent weeks – including Raised by wolves, Close enough, For loveand Chubby Chronicles. Diversity Note that six HBO Max exclusive original movies – including Anne Hathaway’s remake The witches and Seth Rogen car American style pickles – has been quietly removed over the past six weeks, something that’s almost unprecedented in the streaming arena. The report suggests that the move could be designed to evade payment obligations for underperforming titles, or be made for tax purposes, as reportedly purported to be with Bat girl.
Conversely, those of us looking for the survival of the “cinema experience” may be heartbroken because it’s clear that Warner Bros. is prioritizing the true financial potential of theatrical films over the massively ramping up streaming. It may only be a long time before the rest of the industry follows suit. But cancel projects like Bat girl not the way to go about it. You can’t help but feel sorry for the cast, crew, directors – some of whom have made heartbreaking statements following the cancellation – and even the fans.
After all, the studios are the opposite of the artist. They depend on the mercy of shareholders and board members who, at the end of the day, are bound to run after money. When more profit is found in canceling a $90 million project altogether rather than releasing it on streaming, it’s clear that there’s something pretty rotten with the whole business model. Streaming, as we know it, will have to adapt or die – and soon will.