Abreast of all the news that the new head of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, decided it was a better financial decision to just take a huge tax deduction on bat girl putting it away forever – rather than throwing it on HBO Max or spending the mid-to-high eight figures prepping/advertising it for theatrical release – is this treat from Matthew Belloni:
I spoke to someone who attended a screening and said it played like a CW pilot: low stakes, thin characters, light action, and a twisty, convoluted plot. … It’s not necessarily DC leader Walter Hamada’s fault; he was directing the expensive streaming movie that Jason Kilar, the former CEO of WarnerMedia under AT&T, and Toby Emmerich, Warner’s former film chief, told him to do. A $90 million CW pilot was the strategynot an anomaly, although presumably they had Hamada make one good CW pilot. [Emphasis added.]
Here’s the thing: a lot of people love CW shows and they’ve been playing for a long time and probably made a lot of money for everyone involved. But they did it because they were, by superhero standards, very, very cheap. They looked cheap! Because they were cheap. And their cheapness was acceptable due to the soft bigotry of low expectations for TV shows on the fifth most popular broadcast network.
David Zaslav has – rightly I think – decided that their franchise ownership shouldn’t look like complete rubbish, which is why he decided to risk the reputation of Warner Bros. skillfully throwing the huge pile of garbage (apparently!) bat girl into the dumpster and pour kerosene into the dumpster, then throw a match into the dumpster and walk away from the dumpster while it is burning.
Personally, I think that’s a mistake, if only for the somewhat selfish reason that I’d like to see a movie so bad that a studio head decides it’s better to just remove the tax than release into nature. All this to say that someone should release the bots on “Zas the Butcher” and get #ReleaseTheDumpsterFireBatgirlMovie or any other trend. We’ve done it before, folks, we can do it again!
Put aesthetic concerns aside, though, and you’re left with an absolutely insane figure: $90 million is a crazy amount of money to spend on a two-hour movie that’ll be thrown into the streaming vacuum to sit there, largely unguarded and unloved. Such expenses are the main reason why streaming is, quite simply, a black hole of financial loss.
WBD reported a net loss of $3.4 billion in Thursday’s earnings call, despite having 92.1 million subscribers on HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+. But WBD is not alone here. Peacock reported a half a billion dollar loss for Comcast NBC Universal. Despite earning nearly $5 billion for Disney, the division of the company that encompasses Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ lost nearly $900 million. It’s hard to say whether Netflix is ”profitable” or not, considering how much debt they’ve taken on and how much they’re spending on new shows and movies. But the fact that that’s even a question when the company generates $30 billion in revenue a year — or, roughly, three times the domestic box office for 2019 — is a bad sign for streaming as a business model.
There are all sorts of accounting tricks that can be deployed to show that these losses aren’t as bad as they seem and I’m sure these write-offs are all very convincing to people who “buy stocks” and “run the economy”. But from your humble reviewer’s perspective, it seems pretty obvious that streaming companies are simply spending too much money on too many mediocre-to-bad shows and movies. It’s hard to think of a better illustration of this waste than the phrase “90 million dollar CW pilot”.
Again, even if you don’t think WBD was right to put aside bat girlthe new regime’s realization that streaming should serve as a revenue stream that complements, rather than replaces, movie theater revenue is a step in the right direction.
Because I’m an idiot, I forgot to link to the gamer picture in my newsletter yesterday highlighting this wonderful interview with Aaron Reynolds, the creator of Effin’ Birds, on the economy of life in convention. So I will try again. Click on the player below (or right-click here!) to listen to the podcast. You’ll Never Believe How Much Money One Very Big Star Wars Name Earns just to introduce yourself at a one-day convention. (Of course you can always subscribe to the show on Apple or anywhere else podcasts are found if you don’t want to have to rely on me to remind you to link to the damn thing in my newsletter.)
This week I saw again High-speed traina film reminiscent To tear out, John Wickand Smokin’ Aces, but isn’t as great as it sounds. I really wanted to like this movie! Unfortunately, I didn’t like this movie.
In Across the Movie Aisle this week, we talked about The gray manwhich is another ledger entry “this $200 million movie shows why streaming is a black hole of loss”.
Be sure to check out Bill Ryan appreciation from great director/producer Bob Rafelson.
Somewhat buried in all the WBD news was Zaslav’s praise for the flash, which still seems to be on track for a 2023 release. I don’t really have a problem separating the artwork from the artist, so Ezra Miller’s increasingly erratic and dangerous behavior won’t have no impact on the way I watch the film. But I’m calling somebody again to get this troubled young actor who’s to be accused of being a cult leaderamong other things, help.
I always think Nope it’s a bit of a mess, but I really appreciate How? ‘Or’ What … critical Jordan Peele is one of his viewers.
I’m a little confused this piece, titled “A24 knows how to get people to watch its films” because it never once mentions… the box office? I.e. I like a lot of A24 movies, but most of their footage gets real outputs gross between $4,000,000 and $27 domestic. A24 is very good at getting a very small group of people to show up for their movies and buy stuff from their website (including me!), but it’s never really been a huge success. Same Everything everywhere all at once, a movie I’ve been gushing about all year and couldn’t wait to see succeed, is around $70 million domestic. A good total for a relatively inexpensive film! But it’s not exactly enduring Slumdog Millionaire Numbers. Compare A24 to its most similar predecessor, Miramax, and you can see the difference. Once again: A24 is a good distributor and I really like their films! But they don’t fill the multiplexes on the reg.
Both to celebrate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 75th birthday and to prepare for the new straight-to-Hulu release of PreyI attribute Predator, also on Hulu. A third reason: Predator is a perfect movie. I don’t mean it’s the greatest movie ever made or anything. I just want to say it’s perfectly paced, has perfect performances, has perfect one-liners, and has perfect action sequences. There’s exactly one imperfection in the picture, and it’s Arnold’s weird, grainy shot that drops this waterfall into the lagoon. I don’t know what happened there, maybe they had to use footage from a backup camera half a mile away or something. But the fact that I can remember the single moment of incompetence demonstrates how excellent everything else in the picture is.