bat girl, a DC superhero origin story that was nearly completed and slated for release this year, will no longer be flying towards theaters or HBO Max. As first reported by the New York Post on Tuesday, Warner Bros. has scrapped plans to release the film, which stars In the Heights‘ Leslie Grace in the title role of Barbara Gordon.
The project, which was helmed by Bad Boys for Life directors Adil El Arbi spirit Bilal Fallah, reportedly cost $90 million—a budget that ballooned from $75 million due to COVID-related expenses, according to Variety. It was seen two feature performances from Michael Keaton as batman, JK Simmons as Barbara’s father, Commissioner Gordon, and Brendan Fraser as the villainous Firefly. The film had reportedly been screened for test audiences in the lead-up to its release.
Batgirl‘s surprising cancellation comes amid a change in leadership for the recently merged Warner Bros. Discovery, which also quashed an upcoming animated Scooby-Doo sequel movie, according to Variety. “The decision not to release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max. Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl spirit Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future,” a Warner Bros. A Picture spokesperson told The Wrap. (Vanity Fair has also reached out to Warner Bros. for comments.)
But sources customs Variety that the film’s cause of death can likely be attributed to life’s other guarantee—taxes. Multiple sources said that Batgirl‘s $90 million price tag was “apparently neither big enough to feel worthy of a major theatrical release nor small enough to make economic sense in an increasingly cutthroat streaming landscape.” Launching theatrically would have required pouring an additional $30 million to $50 million into the movie for marketing costs (and even more for a global release). Debut Batgirl on HBO Max would’ve meant reversing Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav‘s commitment to putting films in theaters before the streaming service.
As such, the company will likely take a tax write-down on bat girl, according to several Variety sources. This way, Warner Bros. Discovery can recoup much of its expenses, citing a postmerger shift in strategy. But, per Variety, this route also means the film can’t see the light of day at any other studio.