The first signs of major shakeup are starting at Warner Bros. and DC Films, as the the studio's co-president of production and co-chairman of DC Films Jon Berg is being shown the door (albeit with a future production deal unrelated to the DC properties), Variety reported today. This comes after several years of ups and downs in the studio's attempt to forge a shared cinematic universe for their superhero properties. The DCEU's latest release, Justice League, stumbled at the box office after negative reviews and modest audience scores, leading to a $93.8 million opening weekend and a worldwide total to date of just $580+/- million. The picture appears headed for a final cume of roughly $635-655 million.
Source: Warner Bros.
Wonder Woman, Batman, and the Flash in Warner's "Justice League"
Sadly, DC Entertainment CCO and co-chairman of DC Films Geoff Johns is reportedly going to continue working on DC's television and comic book projects but will move away from oversight on the movies, as additional fallout from Justice League's financial failure. If, as early reports claim, Johns does wind up stepping back fro more hands-on involvement in the cinematic side of things, that will be a disappointment and -- in my view -- a big mistake. Johns' understanding of the characters, their stories, and how to properly realize them on the big screen is precisely what the DCEU needs. He should have been handed more involvement, not less. I fear that these changes are akin to the studio's initial reactions after Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, and are not addressing the real source of problems nor the best way to fix what's gone wrong so far (or capitalize on what went right).
The latest woes for the DCEU follow a fantastic performance by Wonder Woman, which enjoyed critical acclaim, audience A-grades, and (at $821.7 million) the highest box office gross of any superhero origin film in history. Warner hoped Justice League could ride that wave of good will, a solid release date followed by a holiday to improve its second-week hold, and last-minute crowd-pleasing tweaks to help it deliver at least $850-900 million in global receipts, if not higher.
Source: Warner Bros
Official Wonder Woman solo poster for Warner's "Justice League"
Unfortunately, Wonder Woman's success proved to be an exception rather than the start of a new trend for the DCEU, and the curse of bad reviews plus only average-moderate audience reactions -- which haunted Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad to varying degrees -- returned. Suicide Squad at least overcame those obstacles to score a solid financial performance. But after Man of Steel kicked off the DCEU with a less-than-expected $668 million and Batman v Superman's $873 million came in quite a bit lower than Warner wanted, the studio needed Justice League to demonstrate a corner had been turned and past problems were in the rearview mirror. Instead, Justice League became the biggest disappointment yet, and the most costly.
Word now is, Warner Bros. plans to create a single position within Warner Bros. Pictures to oversee the DC projects, moving away from more autonomy for the collective DC properties and instead toward integration within WB's regular overall film development. This is pretty much the opposite direction of what I believe they should've done, since -- as my article this morning made clear -- I believe part of the problem has been reluctance and half-measures with DC Films' autonomy and ability to really develop a firm and detailed set of plans that the studio can then set out to fulfill.
That said, I don't fail to appreciate the alternative view that in the past, these movies were developed by Warner as individual movie projects like any other, with a filmmaker and producers taking time to create a project and bring it to fruition without a lot of overarching "shared world" planning and separation of the IP from the rest of the studio's filmmaking approaches.
Source: Warner Bros
Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg prepare for battle in Warner's "Justice League"
Further changes will be coming down the pike for Warner and their DCEU plans. No doubt, the changes in leadership won't be confined to DC, and will likely include Warner personnel as well once the final assessments of Justice League's performance and related implications for merchandising and other revenue exploitation for these IP starts to take clearer shape. And we still have the AT&T merger looming on the horizon (assuming the government's attempts to stall the deal and perhaps force Time Warner to sell CNN to Rupert Murdoch eventually fail, or a compromise deal is reached), which could further change the future at Warner and for the DC properties.
I still maintain (despite having liked the DCEU movies so far) that the best option is to release one or two Aquaman films, a couple of Wonder Woman sequels, and a few Shazam! standalone pictures over the next several years while DC Films is given full-fledged studio status to develop and produce a new foundational slate of DC movies to start the shared universe over from scratch (with Matt Reeves' TheBatman being the first pillar of that new world of heroes). And I think Geoff Johns was one of the people who should've led that new incarnation of DC Films. But it appears Warner is going in a very different direction at this point, and we'll continue to see new announcements and revelations in the coming weeks and months.
One thing is certain: Aquaman will still be released, Wonder Woman 2 will still get made, Shazam! will launch a franchise (be it within the DCEU or apart from it), and Batman's solo series will get rebooted (be it a "soft reboot" or totally fresh start). So fans can count on at the very least seeing those pictures during the next three years, while others -- notably, a Suicide Squad sequel and perhaps an additional Harley Quinn project -- look like they are currently steadily progressing as well (although of course things can always change as new developments arise). Any eventually major change or hard reboot for the DCEU, then, would still be probably four to five years away at this point.
Source: Warner Bros
Ezra Miller as the Flash in Warner's "Justice League"
So those who like the current DCEU as it is will keep getting several pictures; those who weren't totally happy with it but saw potential for stronger particular brands will hopefully get at least a few things they like after all; and those who disliked most of it or are ready for a change will have to wait it out to see if and when Warner finally agrees with them.
What's your reaction to this latest news of changes at DC and Warner, dear readers? Do you think it's enough, or too much? And do you feel these changes are the right ones, or are there others you would prefer to see? Sound off in the comments below!
Box office figures and tallies based on data via Box Office Mojo , Rentrak, and TheNumbers.
Follow me on Twitter, on Google+, and on Quora. Read my blog.