With TimeWarner beginning the process of becoming WarnerMedia under the ownership of AT&T, the old telecommunications company — once known as “Ma Bell” before being broken into smaller companies in the early 1980s — will face a new sort of challenge from a media quarter they’ve never dealt with before: the fans.
Specifically, fans of the Warner Bros. Pictures’ DC Films division, who are known for their passion, dedication and, every so often, overbearing insistence they get things there way. And it seems in the last week or so, leading up to the approval of the merger between AT&T and Warner, the film company has made great strides to prove to those fans that things are finally going to be right in the DC Universe. As an example, Warner Bros. Pictures chairman Toby Emmerich told Entertainment Weekly the key to making successful DC movies is to make them good. “I think the good movies work better. Somebody once said the best business strategy in motion pictures in quality,” he explained. “And I think in a world of Rotten Tomatoes and social media, what’s been proven the better the movie — particularly in the superhero genre — the better it performs. You can’t hide the bacon anymore.”
Of course, the DC movies are a curious anomaly to that truism as critically panned movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were strong box office performers with a number of passionate defenders. The muted perception of that success left the studio at a crossroads in regards the film series’ future; leading to the rudderless Justice League. With that in mind, Emmerich adjusted his notion of quality in relation to first-week box office returns. “I guess when I say ‘quality,’ I don’t want to judge anybody’s movies completely at the moment of release. But I would say there are movies that are right for their time, that an audience is ready for, that’s in sync with the zeitgeist, and I think you need a movie whose quality is recognized at the moment of release so it’s in touch with the culture of the moment.”
Emmerich is hoping that will be the case for December’s Aquaman, the studio’s only DC Films release of the year. But his new superior from AT&T, John Stankey, believes the division is headed in the right direction. “I think the performance over the past year and a half is trending the right direction in terms of the quality of the product and how the franchise is being managed,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. He credits Warner Bros. Entertainment president Kevin Tsujihara with building the momentum he wants from DC’s film slate. “My involvement in that is to make sure I support Kevin in getting the absolute best talent possible and we’ll take that franchise to the next level. That’s his set of decisions to make and his direction to go in.”
One thing Stankey and Emmerich have not address are cries from certain circles for the so-called “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. Believers in a version of the film assembled by director Zach Snyder before his March 2017 departure have already begun inundating AT&T’s Twitter accounts with requests for a home video release. Unfortunately, it seems Snyder only completed what is known in the business as an “assembly cut” of the footage before handing off the reins to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and noted feminist) Joss Whedon. As the name implies, an “assembly cut” is just a compilation of the footage as laid out by the script without any polish or post-production work. These cuts often run four to five hours long and reveal pacing issues or redundant scenes not obvious to the production during scripting or shooting. For personal reasons, Snyder left the production before planned reshoots could be incorporated into his assembly of the film. Nonetheless, hopeful fans believe the new mega-conglomerate will make something like the “assembly cut” available. While it might make for interesting film scholarship, it remains to be seen if AT&T or WarnerMedia will want to showcase the film in that light.
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