With Road Runner-like speed, Warner Bros. Discovery reversed its decision to bury Coyote vs. Acme.
The studio will now allow director Dave Green to sell his hybrid live-action/animated film to other potential buyers instead of shelving the project for tax write-offs. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Amazon is said to be a contender in the mix, with screenings for potential buyers taking place this month. Puk was the first to report news of the turnaround.
The move comes days after the Warners said so Coyote vs. Acme would become the third already-shot film to be shelved, after previously ignoring nearly completed projects Batgirl And Scoob! Holiday chase in August 2022.
After Batgirl And Scoob! were dumped, a group of filmmakers with business at the studio started a text chain – a support group of sorts – to share their hopes and concerns, as well as encouragement and tips for navigating the studio. The one question they all had: What was going on with their movies?
The Coyote The cancellation perhaps rocked the creative community even more Batgirl And Scoob!, because these were positioned as a one-time strategy change that would never happen again. According to sources, after the Coyote vs. Acme After the news broke last week, several filmmakers instructed representatives to cancel meetings with Warners about the books. But now that Coyote may eventually find a new home, these filmmakers are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Unlike the other films that Warners canceled, Coyote vs. Acme was fully completed and tested several times in the 1990s. (Best photo winner Argoboth Deadpool movies, and the first The incantation are among the features that were also put to the test in the 1990s.) According to sources who have seen the film – starring Will Forte, John Cena and Lana Condor – Coyote vs. Acme is a popcorn-style crowd pleaser.
“Coyote vs. Acme is a great movie,” tweeted writer-director BenDavid Grabinski, who worked with Green Happy. “The best of its kind since (Who framed) Roger the Rabbit … The leads are super likable. It’s beautifully shot. The animation is great. The ending makes everyone fucking cry. I thought the goal of this company was to make hit movies?
After Batgirl was shelved, a narrative emerged that the film was canceled because it wasn’t very good. “Our job is to protect the DC brand, and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, during the 2022 investor call following the cancellation. Peter Safran, who went on to become the head of DC Studios Batgirl was shelved, said the team behind the film was talented, but that Batgirl “was not releasable” in comments to press in January.
Green’s industry friends took action to prevent reports like this from tarnishing Green’s reputation Coyote vs. Acme. According to sources, there is still a planned “funeral screening” on the Warners lot this week, although “funeral” is no longer an appropriate term for a project that could very well be revived.
“I don’t know how you see the movie and say, ‘That can’t happen to me,’” says Brian Duffield, the filmmaker behind the sleeper Hulu hit No one will save you. Duffield was not involved Coyote vs. Acmebut is friends with Green and gave notes about the film.
Part of Duffield’s frustration, he says, was that Green did everything asked of him: He delivered the film, which sources say cost $72 million, on budget. He got the right test scores. He even moved away from his friends and family to London for 18 months to save the studio money on post-production costs. All this, just to see his movie run off a cliff.
Duffield believes that Coyote can make money – certainly more than the tax write-off.
“I think Coyote is really comparable to Barbie in many ways,” says Duffield. “They play with iconography in a really fun, popcorn-y way.”
Experienced movie executives recognize that shelving a film for tax write-offs — and to avoid distribution and marketing costs — can make an earnings quarter look better, but it can be shortsighted for a studio in the business of building franchises and a slate.
The decision came as the industry took a hard turn following a streaming golden age that saw studios spend unprecedented billions on content, particularly titles tied to a well-known IP, such as Coyote vs. Acme. Some saw Warners’ ruthlessness less as a new way to abuse talent and more as a return to the way Hollywood used to be.
“The idea that there was a little window where a lot of people could try a lot of things that they wouldn’t have tried under normal circumstances, that is the anomaly,” said one top writer-producer. “The kind of red-tooth-and-claw version of (doing business), the nastiness – I guess that is the norm.”
Still, it’s easy to imagine that if an in-demand creative has the choice of joining Warners or another studio in the future, Zaslav’s aggressive tax strategies could give real pause — even with the reversal. Zaslav previously reversed an unpopular decision – abolishing TCM – after protests from creatives such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson.
Interestingly enough, the plot of Coyote vs. Acme follows the speechless, determined Wile E. Coyote as he teams up with a lawyer (Forte) to battle the big ACME corporation. As in the cartoons, Coyote purchases ACME devices to try to kill Road Runner, but they never work properly and often explode abruptly. In other words, Warners’ third film on the shelves is the story of an underdog taking on a heartless company whose executives don’t realize there can be real consequences if their products blow up in your face.
—Pamela McClintock contributed to this story.