EXCLUSIVE: Article updated at 2:54PM Screenings are being set up this week for streamers Amazon Prime Video, Apple and Netflix to check out and potentially acquire Warner Bros’ axed Looney Tunes movie Coyote vs. Acme after the studio’s phone ran off the hook the entire weekend from angry filmmakers and talent reps over their third feature film kill after Batgirl and Scoob Holiday Haunt!
The more egregious Hollywood sin with Coyote vs. Acme is that it’s a finished film was intended for a theatrical release, while the other two movies were still in the works.
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Of those kicking the tires, even though no deals have been drafted, I hear Amazon is a leading contender given the fact that Courtenay Valenti, the Head of Film, Streaming and Theatrical for Amazon Studios and MGM, was a big champion and linchpin for the movie while she was President of Production and Development at Warner Bros. All of this boils down to Head of Amazon Studios Jen Salke’s signoff, I understand. During the pandemic, Prime Video acquired Sony’s family titles Hotel Transylvania 4 and Cinderella, among other movies. Amazon has been known to take finished films off the table for $100M and turn them into events for Prime Video.
With the actors strike just ending and everyone — streamers and the theatrical schedule — in need of product, it seems foolish to have a studio like Warners leave a branded asset like Coyote vs. Acme lying around and taking a $30M take write-off on the $70M production. With Amazon now in the theatrical game, it will be interesting to see if Warner Bros actually allows the streamer to theatrically release Coyote vs. Acme since the Burbank lot is too cheap to do so, given its dire financial straits.
Amazon also is a great landing pad for Coyote vs. Acme as the studio has three upcoming movies with its star John Cena: Heads of State, Ricky Stanicky and Grand Death Lotto.
Also, during a very noisy weekend for the movie on social media with Coyote vs. Acme and Gravity Oscar winning composer calling Warner Bros. “bizarre anti-art studio financial shenanigans I will never understand,” some have told me that the killing of Coyote vs. Acme didn’t come from WBD CEO David Zaslav himself. Rather, the blame should be set at the feet of Warner Bros. Motion Picture bosses Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy and Warner Bros. new Animation Head Bill Damaschke, who are being made the scapegoats. The motives here were to protect the Looney Tunes IP and also scrub the studio of product developed by the previous administration.
The only thing wrong with that narrative is that De Luca and Abdy never have had any previous offends of killing a previous administration’s films or finished movies. Not until landing at Warner Bros. As my mother use to say, “There’s no such thing as a coincidence.”
Also, we understand that De Luca and Abdy haven’t seen the finished Coyote vs. Acme.
Furthermore, it’s not a motion picture executive’s job to care about tax write-offs for the company. That directive comes from finance and accounting. Even when he was at New Line, De Luca didn’t close down the besieged $90M Warren Beatty trainwreck Town & Country, and if there ever was a movie that went off the rails, it was that one. Why would these movie executives, who have longstanding relationships with talent reps, want to get a reputation that they could kill a movie at any given notice?
Also, studios take tax write-downs on completed movies all the time. Remember, Paramount’s $115M write-down of animated pic Monster Trucks in advance of its 2016 theatrical release ($64M worldwide gross)?
The new Warner Bros Discovery administration needs to have a come-to-Jesus with itself: Realize that if there’s anything worse than taking a feature theatrical slate day-and-date on Max and keeping talent and filmmakers in the dark on that, it’s axing finished theatrical films (and even ones that have a ton of footage in the can). Yeah, we hear ya that the previous regime’s $70M greenlight movies are too high a cost for a Max direct-to-streaming release, but why wasn’t it decided early on by Warners last week that a finished movie would be sold anyway to a streamer and the money gained on that versus burying it in a vault forever? Coyote vs. Acme has reported high test scores indicate it’s a worthy asset somewhere.
While Warner Bros Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said that the media’s coverage of Batgirl‘s cancellation was “blown out of proportion” back in September 2022, I guess he wasn’t seeing or hearing the harsh criticism from the Hollywood creative community and the film’s creatives and talent, both on social and by phone.
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Also, what does the Coyote vs. Acme move by Warner Bros Discovery say to DC bosses Peter Safran and James Gunn? Can their movies or projects be killed at a last-minute’s notice? Along with Chris DeFaria, Gunn is a producer on Coyote vs. Acme. The Guardians of the Galaxy architect was a co-scribe on the movie. We understand that the filmmaker-friendly Gunn and Safran’s greenlights moving forward are bonafide and not in danger of any tax tricks.
The Looney Tunes brand isn’t Harry Potter, and it’s certainly not The Marvels. The brand has been turned upside down, reinvented and reset several times during the course of its 90-year-plus history at Warner Bros. Certainly a family movie that grosses between $160M-$200M worldwide wouldn’t do damage to the studio, but rather play directly to the audience it’s suppose to play to.
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