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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Benjamin Lee

Batgirl directors respond to surprise axing of film: ‘We still can’t believe it’

Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah in June 2022
Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah in June 2022. Photograph: John Salangsang/Rex/Shutterstock

Directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have responded to the cancellation of their Batgirl film, writing that they are “saddened and shocked” by the news.

The Belgian film-makers, best known for 2020’s Bad Boys for Life and episodes of Ms Marvel, shared a statement on Instagram after Tuesday’s news that Warner Bros Discovery would not be releasing the DC Comics adventure that was nearing the end of post-production.

“We are saddened and shocked by the news,” the duo wrote. “We still can’t believe it. As directors, it is critical that our work be shown to audiences, and while the film was far from finished, we wish that fans all over the world would have had the opportunity to see and embrace the final film themselves. Maybe one day they will Insha’Allah.”

The pair went on to pay tribute to an ”amazing cast and crew” who “did a tremendous job and worked so hard to bring Batgirl to life”. The film features the In the Heights star Leslie Grace as Batgirl with Brendan Fraser, JK Simmons, Rebecca Front and Michael Keaton returning as Batman.

“In any case, as huge fans of Batman since we were little kids, it was a privilege and an honor to have been a part of the DCEU, even if it was for a brief moment,” the statement finished. “Batgirl For Life.”

Leslie Grace as Batgirl
Leslie Grace as Batgirl. Photograph: DC Films

The $90m-budget film, which was intended to premiere on US streaming service HBO Max, had finished shooting and was being test screened. But it was revealed that Warner Bros Discovery would not be releasing it on any platform.

Despite rumours that the decision was based on the quality of the film, Variety has claimed that sources put the decision down to a tax incentive, “seen internally as the most financially sound way to recoup the costs”.

The news comes after WarnerMedia officially merged with Discovery in April and CEO David Zaslav took the reins. It’s reported that Discovery took on about $43bn of debt during the merger. Zaslav vowed to cut approximately $3bn in costs which saw the proposed DC movie Wonder Twins cancelled in May.

This week also saw the animated sequel Scoob! Holiday Haunt shelved. Co-writer Paul Dini tweeted: “Why cancel a 95% finished holiday movie this close to Fall, when you’re guaranteed kids watching it from right after Halloween until at least New Years? Makes no business sense.”

“The decision to not release Batgirl reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max,” an official statement read. “Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the film-makers of Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.”

Today saw reports that six HBO Max originals had been removed from the service and offered as paid rentals elsewhere, including the Melissa McCarthy comedy Superintelligence, Robert Zemickis’s remake of The Witches and Anne Hathaway caper Locked Down. August also sees the entire Harry Potter franchise leave the service and head to NBC’s Peacock.

This Thursday sees Warner Bros Discovery report its second-quarter results. Unlike Netflix, HBO Max started the year well with first-quarter results showing 12.8 million global subscriber year-over-year, up 3m from the prior quarter.

Last month, Zaslav spoke to Variety and re-stated his desire to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming platform. “We’ll talk about how we’re going to do it, and when, soon,” he said.

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