Texas congressman Joaquin Castro has taken to X to slam Warner Bros Discovery for axing the $70M Coyote vs. Acme for a reported $30M tax writeoff.
That said, as we first reported, the studio is changing course this week and screening the film for potential buyers, i.e. Amazon Prime (a leading contender), Apple and Netflix. This pivot by studio brass was made after a weekend in which the studio’s phone rang off the hook as the creative community complained about the canceling of the finished film. There also was an outcry by the pic’s composer Steven Price, among others online.
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“The @WBD tactic of scrapping fully made films for tax breaks is predatory and anti-competitive,” wrote Castro, who has protested WBD before on antitrust issues.
“As the Justice Department and @FTC revise their antitrust guidelines they should review this conduct,” he continued.
“As someone remarked, it’s like burning down a building for the insurance money,” he added.
Here is his tweet:
The @WBD tactic of scrapping fully made films for tax breaks is predatory and anti-competitive.
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. https://t.co/Vb8vj3brD7
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) November 14, 2023
Warner Bros. had no statement regarding today’s X blast by Castro (D-Texas).
Several sources have told us that in a cost-cutting, debt-laden environment as Warner Bros Discovery that it’s not CEO David Zaslav to blame here for the axing of the film. Warner Bros. Motion Picture bosses Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy and new animation head Bill Damaschke are the ones who made the decision, this despite the fact that it’s not a production chief’s bandwidth to worry about tax writedowns on a movie. That’s for accounting and finance to sweat over.
The new WBD administration doesn’t want the problem of the previous admin’s greenlights and at $70M, that’s a cost too high for a movie to simply skip theatrical and head to streaming service Max.
While it’s not in production bosses’ nature to worry about tax writeoffs, they realize that there’s a lot of stress over at WBD to win in the wake of having the highest-grossing movie in the studio’s history and YTD with Barbie at $1.4 billion worldwide. A severe financial savings mentality exudes at Warners, and if a film looks too risky to spend marketing on, execs there don’t want to stick their necks out and have a lackluster result and be blamed for a greenlight that wasn’t there. This is despite the fact that test scores for Coyote vs. Acme were high enough for a theatrical release and the simple fact that the theatrical schedule needs a consistent supply of movies next year. Already, the feature take on Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot is buzzed to be heading to Max directly, while Warners says it still hasn’t determined the fate of James Wan and Roy Lee’s horror production.
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“The studio executives, though not in their nature to cancel a movie, are getting a free pass from the top down to avoid any risk, and that’s being taken advantage of, as unhealthy as it is,” said one source with knowledge on the Coyote vs. Acme situation.
Also, the current admin at WBD is trying to protect the Looney Tunes brand, despite the fact that the 93-year-old propert has been rebooted and turned inside out across shorts, the big screen, TV and streaming.
Other producers and execs at Warners are aware of what went on here, and they do not want the place to be known as a must-avoid by reps, talent and filmmakers. We hear that they are protecting their turf and projects to the talent they’ve made deals with.
“Say what you will about the theatrical day-and-date mess, but at least all those finished movies were seen by the widest audience possible during the pandemic,” added one talent rep.
Back in April, Castro was one of four Democratic lawmakers who called on the Justice Department to investigate WBD after its Batgirl cancellation, claiming that the merged company has harmed workers and reduced consumer choice.
Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-CA), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter at the time that the merger “appears to have enabled” the company to “adopt potentially anticompetitive practices that reduce consumer choice and harm workers in affected labor markets.”
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