The critical blitzkrieg on Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the apparent reflection of that in the box office return – despite the fact that those returns have added up to $700 million globally so far – has reportedly gotten the heads of Warner Bros. worried. Sure they’ve made almost three-quarters of a billion dollars so far, but it seems unlikely that the film will break ten figures, and after a year of expensive disasters like Jupiter Ascending, Pan and In the Heart of the Sea, there was a lot more riding on BvS financially than just the DC Extended Universe; Warner Bros. was hoping it would be a license to print money. So how are they reacting? Interestingly, the rumor mill says fewer movies in general, but more franchises specifically.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, studio insiders have been suggesting that Warner Bros. is going to make fewer films in a calendar year, but the emphasis of that smaller production slate is going to on franchise projects, specifically the DCEU, the LEGO Movies and the Harry Potter spin-off series, which begins this fall with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In other words, Warners is looking to the Disney model, which focuses on Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar releases to make up the majority of their releases in a calendar year, as well as spin-offs to classic films like Maleficent, and the upcoming live-action Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.
Warners had the biggest production slate of any Hollywood studio last year with 21 films in all, and one studio rep told THR that that’s not likely to change any time soon. “Warner Bros. has historically had the biggest, most diverse slate in the motion picture industry,” said the rep in a statement. “We did last year, we will this year, and we will continue to do so into the foreseeable future,” with 18 movies this year and 19 in 2017, they added.
Interestingly, the very movies that could be most affected in this move will be projects like San Andreas, the disaster flick starring Dwayne Johnson, which was Warner Bros. biggest film (released through New Line) last year with a global take of more than $450 million. THR says that there will still be room for original fair at Warner Bros. if they move forward with the new release structure, but those movies will only be coming from proven, prestige filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Clint Eastwood.
Although perhaps unrelated, the talk of a smaller production slate with more focus on franchises comes on the same day that Warner Bros. announced that its shifting around some key release dates. According to Deadline, Wonder Woman will be opening threes weeks earlier on June 2, 2017, rather than June 23; that gets the warrior princess out of the way of Transformers 5, but puts her in a face-off against Bad Boys 3. The Andy Serkis version of The Jungle Book meanwhile will open a year later than originally intended, now set for a October 19, 2018.
Three mysterious new items added to the schedule, including an “Untitled WB Event Film,” which will open in The Jungle Book’s old slot on October 6, 2017. Additionally, a pair of movies labelled simply as “Untitled DC Films” have been penciled in for an October 5, 2018, and November 1, 2019 release. The new 2018 DC film will come out in the same calendar year as Aquaman and The Flash, while the 2019 will follow the release of Shazam! and Justice League Part Two. Cyborg and Green Lantern Corps are still scheduled for 2020. So start your speculation: Solo Batman starring Ben Affleck? Suicide Squad sequel?
Obviously, we’ll have more news about all these developments as it becomes available.