Warner Bros. Discovery is shelving Coyote vs. Acme, saying the live-action animation hybrid film is more valuable as a $30 million write-down than a theatrical or streaming release.
The film has seen several disappointments along its production journey. It was slated for release several times before Warner Bros. Discovery gave it the final shove off the proverbial cliff today, saying in a statement that the film would cost too much to release in theaters. The studio invested $70 million in production but instead is taking a $30 million write-down this quarter.
In June, Warner Bros. Discovery revamped Warner Animation Group, previously called Warner Bros. Feature Animation, as part of a broader reorganization under CEO David Zaslav. The studio said the film doesn’t fit with its new creative direction.
“With the re-launch of Warner Bros. Pictures Animation in June, the studio has shifted its global strategy to focus on theatrical releases,” said a Warner Bros. Discovery spokesperson. “With this new direction, we have made the difficult decision not to move forward with Coyote vs. Acme. We have tremendous respect for the filmmakers, casts, and crew, and are grateful for their contributions to the film.”
This isn’t the first time Warner Bros. Discovery halted a project deep in production. The studio infamously shut down Batgirl and a Christmas-themed sequel to a reboot of Scoob! called Scoob Holiday Haunt! instead of seeing them through. However, unlike those projects, Coyote vs. Acme was already completed and was waiting for a release date it will never see.
The film also scored well with test audiences, netting 14 points higher than the average family film, according to Deadline. Written by DC Studios’ James Gunn and directed by Dave Green (Out of the Shadows, Earth to Echo), the film follows Wile E. Coyote, played by Will Forte, who is suing the Acme Corporation over faulty products leading to numerous personal injuries; all the while, the Roadrunner roams free.
Coyote vs. Acme was scheduled to debut in theaters on July 21 but was bumped as the summer hit Barbie was released instead, which went on to become Warner Bros. Discovery’s biggest box office success, grossing $1.4 billion.
After a challenging third quarter earnings report, Warner Bros. Discovery has changed tactics. It is culling back on its releases and doing serious financial gymnastics to make shuttering a finished project a better accounting move than releasing it.
Warner Bros. Pictures Animation is focusing on releasing two films a year in theaters. The studio partnered with Locksmith Animation to produce the animated films Bad Fairies and The Lunar Chronicles, which are currently in development. The company is also working on feature-length films based on Dr. Seuss classics, Cat in The Hat, and a musical version of Oh, The Places You’ll Go!.