Carl asses the changes happening behind closed doors at Warner Media & DC Comics
Let’s face the facts. The reorganization of a major company is nothing new or out of the ordinary. Virtually every company will do it at one point or another. It’s how they remain competitive and successful. Or it’s how they manage to keep their heads above water in difficult times and attempt to stay afloat and not sink and drown. But what Warner Bros. and in particular, the entire Warner Media group delivered yesterday was a huge shock in the industry and to many people who believed that their livelihoods were somewhat secure.
During an investor conference, AT&T CFO John Stephens delivered the bad news which includes mass layoffs and their film schedule is now in flux, saying some film titles could be facing ‘further delays’. Warner Media is now allowing the AT&T entertainment unit to focus their attention somewhat on streaming as a major growth sector and signals a big business opportunity. The pandemic has, according to Stephens forced Warners to look at “new ways to distribute content” which signals outside of cinemas as well as other areas in which they can do their business in a different light.
As for the cinematic releases already scheduled in, Stephens said: “I am not certain where those are going to go” as well as “suggesting possible further delays in some of the titles”. This is due of course to the coronavirus pandemic and the slow reopening of cinemas around the globe, reopenings that have so far not yielded the results that everyone was hoping for. Of course, there has been a distinct lack of new titles as of yet alongside none of the big studio movies that are a staple of the cinematic year. Some are incoming including ‘The New Mutants‘ at the end of August and in a twist of fate, Warner Bros’ own ‘Tenet‘ which is finally getting a release after its future was up in the air for so long. Disney’s ‘Mulan‘ remake is going straight to streaming in countries that currently have the Disney+ service up and running and will grant countries where it isn’t, such as China, the chance to screen the film cinematically. But where Warners are concerned, exactly what titles are they speaking of delaying?
On October 2nd, ‘Wonder Woman 1984‘ is due to open. The Gal Gadot DC sequel has been delayed several times now but was thought to be safe in opening in October. By the sounds of things, this is certainly one of the titles likely to be delayed after the announcement yesterday. Another one is the upcoming ‘Dune‘ remake that is due for release this Christmas season. The film’s director, Denis Villeneuve has already said he is ‘sprinting to the finish’ in an attempt to have the film ready in time to meet its release date. Again from what we could possibly learn from yesterday is that he may yet find himself with plenty of extra time to get the film completed as it could be another one of the films that will find themselves delayed. ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It‘ has already found itself removed from this year’s schedule and found a home in next year’s instead. It too could find itself being pushed further back or debuting on HBO Max instead.
Looking forward to next year, it could mean bad news for the likes of ‘Godzilla Vs Kong‘ which has shifted its release several times now and could yet find itself moving back again. As for the new 2021 releases, we can start to worry about the future of ‘The Batman‘ and ‘The Suicide Squad‘. ‘The Batman‘ wisely moved its release date back way before yesterday’s news broke, at the start of the Hollywood shutdown in fact. But it could yet be in the firing line of this new policy and find itself shifting even further back. ‘The Suicide Squad‘ is due for release in August of next year, before ‘The Batman‘ and it has to fear for its future now after the goings-on. It could be that ‘The Suicide Squad‘ gets pushed to November, ‘Godzilla Vs Kong‘ takes over the August release while ‘The Batman‘ gets pushed back until summer 2022. Even the upcoming ‘The Matrix 4‘ which boasts the return of Keanu Reeves could find itself dumped from release next year and pushed to 2022 instead. Nothing would surprise me at this juncture.
HBO Max is a major growth area for the company and as such, I can see the DC Universe streaming service and many of the smaller Warner channels folding and being incorporated into HBO Max instead. DC got hit with a layoff of 95% of its staff yesterday after the statement was made and as such, will probably fold into the HBO Max mixture instead. WarnerMedia already began a huge round of layoffs which included hundreds of staffers. All this due to the coronavirus pandemic which has devastated the film and television industry over the past six months. Many big cinematic releases that were due to land in theatres either before the end of the year or sometime in the next year including ‘The Matrix 4‘ have suffered from extreme delays and shutdowns which has led to around 600 of WarnerMedia staffers to lose their employment with the company, many of which are within Warner Bros. itself. The future for the company and it’s many subsidiaries doesn’t look very healthy at this moment in time.
Whatever happens next is anyone’s guess. I feel sorry for all the hardworking people at DC that now find themselves cast aside thanks to a virus and restructuring of the business. They have brought us top-quality entertainment for years only to suddenly find themselves out of work. Hopefully, they can find their feet and get back to doing what they do best as soon as possible. As for the movies I fear for, I’m going out on a limb and say that ‘Wonder Woman 1984‘ and ‘Dune‘ are the ones that should be extremely concerned at this moment in time. Both are on the upcoming release schedule. Both are in the direct firing line. And both are due to open within the next four months.
I wouldn’t put it past Warner Bros. to delay ‘Wonder Woman 1984‘ until next summer when it MAY be safer to go to the cinema and would almost certainly guarantee a box office bonanza for the film and the studio. I HATE the idea of having to wait once more for the film. But I’d rather wait than see it pop up on streaming instead. Streaming may suit some people but I say that streaming the latest releases instead of releasing them at the cinema will end up killing off the cinema experience, will kill off cinemas in general, and put even more unfortunate and hard-working staff onto the unemployment lines. And all because movie companies and several audience members couldn’t wait for the moment to be right to launch the film where it deserves to be seen.
I send my best wishes to those hard-working employees around the globe that have suffered hardship due to this ongoing crisis. None of you deserves what has happened to you and I can only send you my best wishes and thoughts. But with the way things are beginning to shape up, the way the entertainment industry is changing and adapting to this ‘NEW’ way of doing business and with what I can only describe as panic stations in film companies and employers around the world, you certainly won’t be the last to fall victim to this escalating and frightening new model that everyone is adopting in the current climate.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!