Warner Bros. kills off 'Batgirl' movie, $90 million in Sorry, DC universe fans: the movie, which starred 'In The Heights' actress Leslie Grace in the title role, will not be released theatrically or on HBO Max.

Warner Bros. kills off 'Batgirl' movie, $90 million in

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hollywood observers are shocked at the amount of money Warner Bros. Discovery seems willing to burn. The nearly finished film "Batgirl" will not be released. Here's NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: The film had originally been planned to cost $75 million, but with COVID-related delays, it had already rocketed up to $90 million. And "Batgirl" meant a lot, says Adam B. Vary. He's a senior entertainment writer at the trade publication Variety. Not only was it meaningful to have Leslie Grace, a Latina actress, lead the film, but...

ADAM VARY: This is work that, you know, hundreds if not thousands of people spent many, many months of their lives working on. This movie also had one of the first trans characters based on a trans character that's in the comic books played by a trans actor. Michael Keaton is - was returning to play Batman in this movie. So it really was seen by the fandom with a certain degree of excitement.

TSIOULCAS: In a statement reported by multiple media sources, a Warner Bros. spokesperson wrote, the decision to not release "Batgirl" reflects our leadership's strategic shift as it relates to the DC Universe and HBO Max. Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor, and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. Warner Bros. has not replied to requests from NPR for comment.

On Tuesday, Variety reported the shift was due to a change in strategy. The former studio chief had scheduled "Batgirl" and all of Warner Bros. other films to be released only on streaming on HBO Max because of the pandemic. Earlier this year, a new CEO came in and reversed that decision, but also apparently decided that "Batgirl" just wasn't a big-scaled tentpole action film that would succeed at the box office. Adam B. Vary says...

VARY: The Warner Bros. Discovery leadership decided that they would essentially write off "Batgirl" - that instead of releasing it on HBO Max, they could clean up their ledger, their debt ledger, by writing it off.

TSIOULCAS: When the "Batgirl" news first broke, it was via the New York Post. The newspaper's entertainment critic, Johnny Oleksinski, says his source blamed poor audience response to a rough cut screening.

JOHNNY OLEKSINSKI: It did test poorly. It tested in the 30s, which, as anybody knows, if you test in the 30s, you fail math and have to redo eighth grade. "Batgirl" is a lousy movie.

TSIOULCAS: But, Oleksinski adds, there are plenty of lousy movies that make it to theaters.

OLEKSINSKI: We have to acknowledge that Val Kilmer in a nippled Batsuit by Joel Schumacher made it to our screens. Over at Universal, the movie "Cats" made it to our screens. They weren't shelved, and they were probably very aware they weren't going to make any money and lose a bunch of money and be embarrassed.

TSIOULCAS: Meanwhile, on an Instagram story today, Leslie Grace posted a clip of someone lip-synching. The song - Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

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