Warner Bros. Discovery axed yet another almost finished movie: Coyote vs Acme. Set to star John Cena, WBD apparently thought a $30 million tax write off was the best they could do with this film.
Perhaps erasing this movie shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. After all, WBD spent 2022 scorching every property that didn’t immediately profit them, and those that well could. They even removed Looney Tunes episodes as well, so Coyote vs Acme‘s property was already not a favorite.
Still, though. In January 2023, Warner Bros Discovery’s CFO, Gunner Weidenfels, stated that the company aimed to grow rather than prune:
We took a little bit of time to make sure that we do it properly. For some of the titles, we’ve found new homes elsewhere. That’s why this took six or seven months. But I think we’ve come to great solutions and, most importantly, we’re done with that chapter.
Apparently the chapter has been extended. A second season, if you will. A reboot. Or, Warner Bros. Discovery for some reason doesn’t care that their image is starting to look increasingly chaotic and haphazard.
Alas, if you hoped that with the SAG strike finally over, big name studios would solid business plans set to go, well, you’re in for disappointment.
Coyote x Acme Starring John CenaWarner Bros intended Coyote vs Acme to be the latest installment of the beloved Looney Tunes’ character. Wile E. Coyote first appeared in a 1949 comic and is most famous for his misadventures with Road Runner.
Warner Bros first announced the project in 2018. Aiming to combine classic animation with live action, the movie filmed in 2022. However, after initially scrapping the plans for a theatrical release, WBD announced that they decided to scrap the movie entirely.
In all fairness, no one knows. Wile E. Coyote is an established property that has built-in fans. Plus, who doesn’t like John Cena?
Not only that, but the movie itself tested extremely well with test audiences. When news broke that Warner Bros. Discovery was considering scrapping the project, Amazon itself expressed interest in buying it.
Nevertheless, Warner Bros said “no thanks.”
Coyote vs Acme: Crew vs StudioThe company issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, stating:
With the re-launch of Warner Bros. Pictures Animation in June, the studio has shifted its global strategy to focus on theatrical releases…With this new direction, we have made the difficult decision not to move forward with Coyote vs Acme. We have tremendous respect for the filmmakers, casts, and crew, and are grateful for their contributions to the film.
Deleting hours and hours of hard work usually isn’t the best way to show gratitude, but at least Warner Bros. Discovery acknowledged the potential backlash this time. Not sure it makes it any better, though.
In fact, the director, David Green, stated that he was shocked by the news in a message on X (formerly Twitter):
I am beyond proud of the final product, and beyond disappointed by WB’s decision.
It’s not exactly a great business model to work directors, animators, actors, and writers under the knowledge that their work might well end up getting erased from existence. After all, most people aren’t eager to jump at a job that has established a precedent of making any work they do futile, ostensibly for financial reasons. Yet even those reasons seem pretty inscrutable.
Coyote vs Acme: Part of a PatternUnfortunately, cancelling Coyote vs Acme is just another example of a business strategy that has more in common with a splash paint project than a carefully planned outline.
When WBD hired James Gunn last year to direct DC, many fans felt optimistic. A stellar track record promised a bright future. However, since then, WBD has continued to flounder.
As DC’s missteps continued this year, people began to blame Gunn, wondering if he wasn’t up to the task. Yet with this news, along with other blunders, it’s clear that Warner Bros Discovery as a whole has a problem. One wonders just how much control Gunn has, if any at all.
What Is Warner Brothers Even Doing?Warner Bros Discovery’s decisions over the past year have nosedived from optimistic to baffling. In addition, at least by appearances, they seem increasingly desperate to penny pinch.
Which really begs the question: do these people even like movies?
As Twitter user Boze Herrington states:
Call me crazy but I would like [for] film studios to be managed by people who actually like movies.
Yes, studios need to make money to survive. They need to pay writers living wages (not that that’s historically happened). Actors, too. Staff who keep daily production running, editors, directors, and more.
At a certain point, though, you’d have to hope the people involved in making art actually care about their art and not just money.
Yet even if it is just money, then why cancel this film, or Batgirl? They’re already made, so Warner Bros Discovery is essentially just preemptively swallowing the financial loss. A $30 million tax write off doesn’t even halve the $72 million production free.
Now, it’s true that production companies do have to pay distribution fees, but releasing them online would mitigate some of that if they aren’t that confident in the movie. Why delete them?
It’s really giving the impression that nobody there has any idea what they’re doing. Even if they’re waiting for a potential buyout from Comcast, their current business approach seems to be cutting the brakes and praying they glide to the finish line instead of plunging off a cliff.
Does WBD Want To Make Dreams Anymore?
If Warner Bros wants a hit movie or show, they need to put in the work to create one.
Most success stories in entertainment come about with trial and error. It’s normal to expect some hiccups with all the changes at the company. Not to mention the strikes.
Yet if they really want to find success as a company, they need to foster an environment where creators can put their passion to use. The best movies and shows stem from creative vision, not desperate attempts to rake in cash or avoid getting erased from a server.
Honestly, filmmakers shouldn’t have to function in fear that their hard work could all go up in smoke. Fear seldom breeds great work. It can keep the company afloat financially for a bit, but it won’t save their reputation or establish WBD as “the stuff dreams are made of.”
At the moment, Warner Bros Discovery seems more like the place where dreams are made and then erased. They should maybe reevaluate their strategy if they want a place in the industry moving forward.