Warner Delays DC Movies But Sends Two HBO Max Films To Theaters

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Warner Delays DC Movies But Sends Two HBO Max Films To Theaters

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As had been rumored for weeks, the postproduction gridlock caused by Covid has claimed another major casualty, with James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom being delayed from March 23, 2023 to December 25, 2023. And since there’s a prime slot currently available, Shazam: Fury of the Gods gets to avoid a clash with James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water and Ryan Coogler’s likely-to-be-leggy Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The David F. Sandberg-directed superhero comedy gets IMAX and related PLF screens it wouldn’t have had alongside Avatar 2. More importantly (not everything is about DC or Marvel), Warner Bros. Discovery has sent two previously intended-for-HBO Max movies, a new House Party on December 9 and Evil Dead Rise on April 21, 2023, to theaters.

Yes, David Zaslov is making good on his unofficial pledge to prioritize theatrical. I’d bet most of your money that Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike: Last Dance ends up in theaters, possibly in that new February 10, 2023 ‘untitled WB event film’ slot. Salem’s Lot has been delayed indefinitely (again, post-production delays seem to be the culprit, the trailer played great at CinemaCon), with The Nun 2 (directed by Conjuring 3’s Michael Chaves and written by Malignant’s Akela Cooper) slated for next year’s early September slot essentially created by It, The Nun and It Chapter Two. For folks worried that David Zaslov’s shareholder presentation didn’t reference The Conjuring Universe ($2.1 billion on a combined $179.5 million budget) among Warner Bros.’ prized IPs, there you go.

With all the online handwringing about the DC delays, Warner Bros. Discovery is actually *adding* movies to the theatrical slate. I’m disappointed because it furthers the nonsensical ‘DC in disarray!’ narrative. While I’m glad Sandberg and Wan don’t have to rush (more time to cram those DC flicks with gleefully silly Conjuring Universe cameos), this leaves theaters without yet another major year-end tentpole. I’ve given Disney much grief about holding back theatrically, including the deluge of 20th Century Studios and Searchlight flicks that debuted/will debut on Hulu. However, they will keep the industry afloat in the last quarter of 2022 with Black Panther 2, Strange World, and Avatar 2, along with 20th Century/Searchlight flicks like Amsterdam, Barbarian, See How They Run and The Menu.

On a case-by-case basis, these moves make sense. You can’t complain that Suicide Squad or Rise of Skywalker were rushed to meet a release date and then cry foul when films are delayed to get the time they need. Likewise, you can’t argue post-production talent shouldn’t be overworked to hit a release date and then complain when films struggling to hit a deadline get pushed back. Yes, Shazam 2 and Avatar 2 could have thrived concurrently. Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 succeeded alongside Avatar. Jumanji 2 and Greatest Showman thrived alongside The Last Jedi. However, Warner was likely concerned that Wakanda Forever will still be massive even by Christmas. We all remember the last time Hollywood presumed Black Panther would play like a normal MCU tentpole.

If it were up to me, I’d release Magic Mike 3 theatrically in February but keep Shazam 2 in December (even Bumblebee or Mary Poppins Returns-level grosses would be fine on a $125 million budget). I’d then move The Flash to March (rip that band-aid off) and send Aquaman 2 to summer so they can have a guaranteed blockbuster on the tenth anniversary of Man of Steel, but it’s not my money. I get the desire to keep Aquaman at Christmas. It even lessens the blow should Wakanda Forever, The Way of Water and The Lost Kingdom turn out to be remarkably similar underwater-ish fantasy sequels. Assuming nothing else changes, Warner Bros. could rule the fourth quarter of 2023 with Dune part Two, The Color Purple, Wonka and Aquaman 2.

As for the much-debated Batgirl, funeral screenings for canceled movies are not a new invention. As for the rest of the slate, I have no strong feelings about House Party or Evil Dead Rise. I disliked the first The Nun (the biggest grossing Conjuring movie with $366 million global) almost as much as I adored Malignant, while Annabelle: Creation was much better than Annabelle. Absent all the conspiracy theories, sky is falling chatter and good/evil discourse about what are calculated business decisions concerning corporately created art, at least two movies that were supposed to be on HBO Max will now play theatrically. This is, as is often the case when it comes to WB and DC, business as usual being treated as the end of the world.



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