After several years of troubled release dates, production delays, and unpredictable hybrid streaming-theatrical releases, it seems that studios are getting comfortable with the old ways. According to a new release from industry news outlet Puck, Warner Bros is considering canceling its previous release strategy for the upcoming Batgirl film. The Leslie Grace-starring DCEU film was reported to be debuting as an HBO Max streaming-only film, but now it seems the studio is considering either a theatrical release or a simultaneous streaming/theater release. There is not currently a confirmed release date for Batgirl, so we will probably have to wait for Warner Bros to announce that before we can be sure of how we are going to get to watch the adventures of one Barbara Gordon as Batgirl.
The global Covid-19 outbreak has had enormous effects on the film industry, not least of which was various studios and chains scrambling to release films during pandemic lockdowns during which attending publicly crowded events was not recommended. The rising competition among studios to develop content for their streaming platforms additionally led to more films being released streaming and for the practice to be quickly normalized. Batgirl was originally intended for this kind of release, but the widespread lifting of coronavirus mandates and the very high profile success of a few hit films has apparently made studios rethink. Warner Bros released the Matt Reeves film The Batman on March 4 in the United States to enormous box office grosses (partially due to the theater chain AMC’s bold experiments in “charging more per ticket” so they could “make more money”), which must make them rethink how many tickets they can potentially sell on a related property like Batgirl.
The Batman was recently released on Warner Bros’ HBO Max streaming service, to remarkably high viewing numbers. This probably also indicates that even audiences that are willing to go to a theater to check out Batgirl will likely be okay with seeing it again once it arrives on HBO. Ultimately, it will not be that surprising that established studios would be eager to go back to the tried and true theatrical release strategy, particularly if viewers will still be willing to stream at home after the fact.
Batgirl will star Leslie Grace (who also recently starred in John M. Chu’s In The Heights) as the titular superhero. This will be the character’s introduction to the DCEU and the first cinematic portrayal of Batgirl as Barbara Gordon, daughter of Gotham Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (currently played by J.K. Simmons and/or Jeffrey Wright). Previously, Batgirl had been played by Alicia Silverstone in the much-mocked 1997 film Batman & Robin, albeit with her family connection being changed to be related to butler Alfred Pennyworth. Batgirl will also star Brendan Fraser as the pyromaniac villain Firefly, and feature Michael Keaton as Batman after thirty years of not playing the character. Batgirl recently wrapped principal photography, and will likely be officially announcing its release date and strategy soon.