How Has The Cancellation Of Batgirl Threatened Ownership And Consumption Of Film?

Ed Farley

Recently, Warner Bros. announced that DC film Batgirl had been permanently scrapped, sending shockwaves across Hollywood. Additionally, it was announced that HBO Max (the streaming service that was to be the home of the film) was to be shut down in 2023, to make way for a new service following WarnerMedia merger with Discovery. Reflecting on this news, Ed Farley discusses the fragile nature of digital media, which is unlike anything consumers have seen before.

When these two unprecedented events occurred, there was fear and panic among fandoms. If an already finished film can be canned, what would happen to the beloved shows that were exclusive to HBO Max? Would they too be in jeopardy of an action like this?

With sighs of relief, it was clarified that other projects from the service were safe, despite multiple reports implying that they were not. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav clarified that for Batgirl, it was a DC-focused issue. He emphasised the need to “protect the DC brand” he wanted to curate. This follows several mishaps with the superhero franchise. He stressed the importance of “quality” and that an expensive film made for streaming didn’t make economic sense. Any DC film in the future would be big bucks, big quality, and supposedly big screen only.

Content made exclusively for streaming could be lost to time as well

Though the news of some shows’ safety was announced, there was still a wider conversation that came from the announcements. Twitter users feared that other digital media could be at risk. Without a physical release, many noted that content made exclusively for streaming could be lost to time as well.

The consensus from many is that the way we consume content is changing. Just ten years ago we would have to wait for a film, go to a cinema to watch it, then buy it on DVD. By having a fixed monthly price for using streaming services, you have access to content but not necessarily ownership. It’s up to the streaming service what you will see, as sometimes films get pulled from their catalogue.

Creators having limited autonomy over their work is not a new concept, as its ultimately always at the hands of their superiors. As the news broke about their movie’s cancellation Batgirl directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah were in Morocco for El Arbi’s wedding of all places, according to Deadline. The idea that creators or crew find out the same way consumers do is mind-boggling to say the least. Now that content is overtly being tied to business strategies, does it even matter if a film is seen as good or bad?

We have everything at our fingertips, where the idea of not being able to see it anymore is aggravating 

Regardless of the quality a product, it’s ironic that a film unwanted by execs is desired even more by consumers. This move raises the question about what will happen to digital shows in the future. With these mergers, and the need to forge new identities for these companies, deleting digital media when there is no physical release could become more prevalent.  

We have everything at our fingertips, where the idea of not being able to see it anymore is aggravating. With the fragile nature of digital shows becoming evident will they become elevated in value when we are faced with not accessing them? Only time will tell.

Ed Farley

Featured image courtesy of Philip Bond via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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