Every summer —or, at least, those of the last decade—, the month of July has been a marked date in the calendar of the followers of the superhero genre. San Diego Comic-Con always comes with a barrage of trailers, announcements, and surprises. This year’s was no less, but DC, unlike a Marvel that wanted to make its roadmap very clear, left its biggest announcement for a few days later.
And no, it was not the announcement of the abrupt cancellation of batgirlwhich will not even see the light of day on HBO Max, but it was related. This week we learned that Warner Bros. Discoveryfrom the voice of its new CEO David Zaslav (someone with a more than proven career in the world of entertainment) that there is a long-term plan for the future of DC.
A plan that, at least on the surface, is very similar to the one that Marvel began to draw in 2008 with its Cinematic Universe, and that DC tried to pursue with many misfortunes years later. Since then, the DCEU is not known if it exists or not, and tapes like joker either batmancompletely disconnected, have been his greatest successes.
DC Studios, a plan (perhaps not so) similar to Marvel’s
“You look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman – these are brands that are known all over the world.”Zaslav said during a call with investors where he announced the new plan for DC. “We have done a reset. We have restructured the business and we are going to focus on it, where there will be a team with a 10-year plan focused only on DC. We believe we can build a much more sustainable business.”
DC has long wanted to emulate the success of Disney-owned Marvel Studios, which Kevin Feige has turned into the highest-grossing film franchise in history. Zaslav recently brought in Feige’s former boss, the retired Alan Horn, as an adviser. During the earnings call, Zaslav suggested that DC would try to emulate Marvel’s playbook.
The result is a 10-year plan that, although it has yet to be defined and it is not known what will happen to characters linked to actors such as Affleck’s Batman or Pattinson’s, much less if there will be a complete or partial restart. It is also up in the air – let us not be left unnamed – what could happen to the Flash of an Ezra Miller with more and more controversies behind him but, in principle, it was going to be the Gordian knot of the DC Universe.
“The goal is to grow the DC brand. To grow the DC characters. But also, our job is to protect the DC brand, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery
“It’s very similar to the structure that Alan Horn, Bob Iger and Kevin Feige have very effectively created at Disney. We believe we can build a much stronger and sustainably growing business out of DC,” Zaslav said. “As part of that, we’re going to focus on quality. We’re not going to release any movies before they’re ready…. DC is something we can improve on,” he bluntly commented.
The story of DC’s misfortunes is well known:
DC has stumbled forward following the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, completed a decade ago.
The studio initially hired Zack Snyder to oversee its universe, which the filmmaker released in 2013 with man of steel. However, Snyder lost the trust of studio executives after the controversial Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice from 2016; a film that in its initial version had an intelligible montage as a result of all the interference. No one can tell if it was more of a flop for Snyder or Warner in general.
The truth is that by 2022, if we remember the plan that DC launched at the time, some of the films from an ambitious list of 10 titles that were announced in 2014 never came to fruition, including the justice league 2. Executive Walter Hamada took the reins of DC Films in 2018 and has been plotting a string of movies — including several for HBO Max to fulfill then-WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s tenure — that have gone unnoticed. Now those plans are changing once again.
Zaslav now changes course again. He said expensive movies for streaming didn’t make economic sense: “The goal is to grow the DC brand. To grow the DC characters. But also, our job is to protect the DC brand, and that’s what we’re going to do.” “We are going to focus on quality. We are not going to release any film before it is ready, “said the executive.” DC is something we can do better, “he said as a phrase that highlights his bet.
Again a parallel path… before a Marvel in its own reboot
In front of DC, a Marvel more settled than ever but that is going through a Phase 4 which, as in all studies, has been affected by the pandemic. The commitment to television series has also caused the rate of releases to begin to show certain signs of exhaustion, such as, for example, that only Spider-man: No Way Home has exceeded 1,000 million collections, something that counting the premieres of the previous phase (3, from 2016 to 2019) was achieved six times in eleven films, with two of avengers making a historical record and exceeding 2,000 and 2,800 respectively.
For now, the average collection of phase 4 does not reach 800 million, the lowest since phase 1 and, for phase 5, plans 9 films and 6 series in the short period of only three years. Perhaps too much for an audience that should now also be seen with the DC offer.
We will see if this represents a new culmination in a genre that has changed the history of cinema, its industry and the way of establishing ties between television and the big screen, for better and for worse. Or, perhaps, if it is the beginning of a stagnation that, on the other hand, has historically also happened with other genres such as Westerns or certain subgenres of science fiction.