The “sunk cost fallacy” should be avoided by gamblers and other types of investors because they believe that even if a long-planned course of action has now been rendered unworkable, they must keep going because they have already invested so much time and effort into it.
It is through ruthlessness that executives demonstrate their virility. It’s what Rupert Murdoch did when he closed News of the World, and it’s what Wayne Enterprises did when it discarded the old merchant branches of its business in the 19th century. Does that – should that – apply to movies as well?
Clearly, David Zaslav agrees: the new CEO of Warner Bros Discovery has abruptly halted post-production on the $90 million Batgirl film. The practice of “shelving” movie projects at the early stages is common enough, but throwing a finished film into a vault is unusual.
Zeslav reversed Warner Bros’ existing streaming strategy to focus instead on releasing prestige movies in theatres – only to find that Batgirl wasn’t big enough to justify a cinema rollout, yet too big for a televised release. Hollywood’s classic “mid-budget” nightmare is back in a new guise.
A mid-range movie, once a staple of 1970s and 1980s cinema, still wins awards during awards season, but now falls between blockbusters and independents. Zaslav has reportedly decided to “shelve” Batgirl for a tax write-down, call its budget a dead loss in order to reduce the company’s tax liability, and by that token increase profits generally – a move bolstered by the failure of the film.
Can we hear the ghostly laughter of those legendary producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom? Movies become a Gazprom pipeline of superhero mush when studios treat them as pure, undifferentiated corporate “content” they can turn off when their accountants decide it’s time.
In spite of this, it can happen to even the most highly regarded and prestigious-looking indies. It is still being whispered about the disappearance of Hippie Hippie Shake, the indie British film about the 1960s counterculture, and the Oz trial starring Sienna Miller as Germaine Greer. It became mired in legal and contractual disputes and has not been released except for test screenings.
Warner Bros Discovery had disavowed screening services for Batman. As with the much-discussed “Snyder Cut” of DC’s Justice League, it is likely to emerge to great fan excitement after the lawsuits are settled.
Cynics may smirk at this latest demonstration of corporate philistinism and heartlessness toward directors, writers, actors, cinematographers, and other artists. Hollywood has always been an unsentimental business, hasn’t it?
Are you sure Harry Cohn, Jack Warner, or Sam Goldwyn would have fainted at the news of Zaslav’s actions? Is it just a matter of shrugging and saying, yes, it had to be done? It’s possible. It’s not simply a cinephile mannerism or a romantic notion to view movies as individual artworks.
Your bottom line will suffer if you don’t keep faith in the idea of films as artworks. Seeing the cynicism and emptiness, the public will turn away from these films: there will be a colossal crisis, a kind of colony collapse disorder.
Therefore, Batgirl should be released, if necessary on streaming services. Zaslav and his executives should stand by their management convictions and see all their planned movies through to completion.
Robert Poirrer is a contributing author who covers Hollywood latest movie releases and web series for the MovieThop website. He has a decade of experience in writing movies based articles for numerous renowned media outlets. He is excellent at creating unique content based on emerging trends in a variety of categories especially entertainment, movies and lifestyle. When not writing articles you could find Robert enjoying mountain biking trips with his friends. He graduated in English Literature from North Carolina State University.