A congressman is calling for a federal investigation of Warner Bros. for its handling of Coyote vs. Acme.
Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro took to X to blast the studio for its original plan to shelve the movie for a tax break.
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“The WBD tactic of scrapping fully made films for tax breaks is predatory and anti-competitive,” the San Antonio Democrat wrote. “As the Justice Department and @FTC revise their antitrust guidelines they should review this conduct. As someone remarked, it’s like burning down a building for the insurance money.”
Warners has since reversed its decision amid industry backlash and decided to try and shop the film to other studios and streamers. But the studio previously went through with shelving the movies Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt for tax write-offs last year.
Castro has been vocal on antitrust issues in media and entertainment. In April, he called on the competition enforcers to reassess Discovery’s merger with AT&T’s WarnerMedia. This followed 30 members of Congress warning that the resulting competition vacuum would harm workers and consumers, as well as reduce diverse programming — which became a common criticism after the company canned its $90 million HBO Max film Batgirl, the first DC movie led by a Latina, for the tax write-off.
In a letter to the Justice Department, Castro previously wrote that the deal enabled Warner Bros. Discovery to “adopt potentially anticompetitive practices,” including “product cancellations.”
“The damage to content creators whose projects are cancelled in deep development and post-production cannot be overstated,’ stated the April 7 letter. “Such cancellations stain these projects, making them less appealing and marketable to other buyers — consumers will likely never be able to watch shows purchased then cancelled by WBD. WBD’s conduct amounts to a de facto ‘catch and kill’ practice, vastly limiting consumer choice.”
Under current merger guidelines, a consideration of whether a deal is approved is if it will incentivize a company to “withdraw a product that a significant number of customers strongly prefer.” Castro, in his comments over the shelving of Coyote vs. Acme, could be alluding to the absence of competition in Hollywood that allows WBD to make unpopular moves without harm to its bottom line.
The call for an investigation is the latest twist in the almost cartoon-like saga of the live-action/animation hybrid Coyote vs. Acme, which went from just another title on Warners’ slate to the most talked-about movie in Hollywood thanks to the studio’s initial effort to scrap the project.
Unlike Batgirl, however, Coyote vs. Acme is entirely finished and had a successful audience screening where its test scores were in the 90s. Supporters of the project applied pressure to the studio to change last week’s decision, with some creatives even canceling meetings with the company in protest. “I don’t know how you see the movie and then go, ‘That couldn’t happen to me,’” No One Will Save You filmmaker Brian Duffield previously told THR.
Now, the studio will allow director Dave Green to shop the project, though it’s not yet clear what price Warner Bros. will set for the title given its potential value as a tax write-off that would help offset the movie’s $70 million budget.
Coyote vs. Acme follows the speechless and hapless Wile E. Coyote as he teams up with a lawyer (Will Forte) to fight the ACME corporation. Just like in the cartoons, Coyote buys ACME devices to try and kill Road Runner, but they never work properly, causing him to embark on a quest to take down the company instead.
Nov. 16, 9:55 a.m. A previous version misstated that Scoob! Holiday Haunt was not a completed movie.
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