Warner Bros. Subject of Federal Investigation After Controversial Cancellation

in Entertainment, Movies

Leslie Grace as Batgirl in the canceled DC movie

Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. has had a series of questionable decisions regarding its films in the past couple of years. Multiple projects, including Batgirl, Scoob! Holiday Hunt, and Coyote Vs. Acme, were all canceled despite being either nearly or fully complete. Online critics pointed the finger directly at Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav as the reason behind the cancellations, but in the end, WB is now facing a much stronger point of contention. 

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling on the Barbie movie poster
Credit: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. has had a wild ride of a year, riding the high of success that was Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie’s Barbie while facing the disappointments that have been the final releases from the DC Extended Universe. Amid its box-office woes, the studio pulled several series and movies from Max, its streaming platform, to much outrage and confusion. It also faced backlash for its decisions to cancel the previously mentioned movies, but it seems as though Coyote Vs. Acme may have been the final straw.

Test viewings of the film indicated audiences were very happy with what they saw. That, in addition to multiple high-profile names attached to the film, made it all the more frustrating for fans when the announcement of the film’s cancellation was originally made. Due to the outpouring of backlash and criticism, it was recently revealed that Warner Bros. has reversed its decision to cancel Coyote vs Acme. However, the decision to cancel it in the first place raised eyebrows and gained the attention of a congressman.

Wile E. Coyote with a piano key smile inside a broken piano
Credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Texas Representative Joaquin Castro posted on X, formerly Twitter, saying. “The @WBD tactic of scrapping fully made films for tax breaks is predatory and anti-competitive. As the Justice Department and @FTC revise their antitrust guidelines they should review this conduct. As someone remarked, it’s like burning down a building for the insurance money.”

This would not be Castro’s first time calling out antitrust concerns in the media space. Back in 2021 Castro, along with others in the Senate and Congress, urged the DOJ to “investigate the proposed $43 billion merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia for violations of antitrust laws.” 

Credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Again in April Castro, along with other members of Congress, sent a letter to the Justice Department urging them to reassess the merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery. Back then, this letter came on the heels of the news that Batgirl would never reach HBO despite being mostly done, all in order to receive a tax write-off. Under current laws, studios may decide to cancel certain unaired projects, claim them as a loss, and take the guaranteed tax benefits rather than gamble on their success at the box office or in streaming. 

This latest decision by the studio has placed it in the hot seat, with many wondering whether Warner Bros. is creating movies for the sole purpose of using them for write-offs. Clearly, it’s enough to gain attention from Congress several times, seeming to prove it’s becoming a pattern for the struggling studio. It seems that in the midst of a merger that saddled WB with millions of debt and with further losses expected from the combined WGA and SAG AFTRA strikes, the studio will continue to take more and more drastic measures to bring itself back to a more financially stable outlook.

Do you think Congress should get involved in the latest upset by Warner Bros.? 

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