There were raised eyebrows and lots of frustrations last year when Warner Bros. took a look at their financials and decided that they would take extreme measures to ensure their profit margins. In some cases this meant cancelling forthcoming projects that didn’t have a high-degree of certain success, reorganising strategies for the directions of certain franchises and – most controversially – scrapping the release of various completed projects (most infamously, Batgirl). The animated Scoob! Holiday Haunt was due for release in 2022 was also nixed after completion.
One might have thought that time had moved on and that the epic scything of its own content was an unfortunate part of its past, but in the last week or so came news that another fully-completed project had had its release scrapped, most likely as a tax write-off rather than any concerns about the quality. Coyote Vs. Acme was a feature-length production (a mixture of animation and live-action) highlighting that classic animated combat between Wylie E. Coyote and the always-just-one-step-ahead Road Runner. (Test-audiences for the film – featuring the talents of which stars Will Forte, John Cena and Lana Condor – had rated it highly yet Warner Bros. seemingly decided against a theatrical or Max release and were therefore able to take a $30M write-down on what had been a $70M production).
Social media was quickly full of opinions on the matter – few of them favourable to the studio’s decision. Composer Steven Price was furious that none of his hard work would see/hear the light of day and didn’t shirk from expressing that on Twitter/x. “Had a lot of fun scoring Coyote Vs Acme. As no-one will be able to hear it now, due to bizarre anti-art studio financial shenanigans I will never understand, here is a bit of behind the scenes footage of our “Meep Meep” Roadrunner choir, with apologies to Tchaikovsky…” he typed. “Animation totally complete and looked great. Whole film mixed and finished….” as well as “This is a weird one, for sure! Good film, scrubbed from existence…”
Brian Duffield, director of No-One will Save You, posted that he had seen a preview of the film and stated his opinion that: “… it is excellent. It also tested in the high 90s repeatedly. It also had interested buyers. The people working at Warner Bros are anti-art and I hope multiple anvils drop on their heads.”
Another director, Franklin Leonard, noted: “Would love for someone to walk through the numbers on a decision like this because I’m really struggling to understand how the financial upside exceeds the cost of inevitable skepticism that talent will have about Warner Bros in at least the short term. Warner Bros. has announced that Coyote Vs. Acme has been shelved entirely and is no longer being released despite being completed. Words cannot describe how much I am tired and hate this practice. I was genuinely excited for this film and being shelved is so infuriating.”
Even Texas congressman Joaquin Castro posted to twitter/x and noted: “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“.
Such has been the consternation at yet another spreadsheet rather creative decision that it appears the unlikely may be possible – with Monday bringing the news that while Warner Bros. were sticking to their guns about not releasing the film themselves, they were opening the production up to offers / sale from other interested parties.
Industry site Deadline noted that the studio will now allow director Dave Green to shop it to other potential buyers. It is not known who might end up as the buyer, but it is believed that Amazon is one of the likely contenders.