Over the past few days, you may have heard about the latest developments at Warner Bros. Discovery aka the House of Zaslav, and the controversy surrounding Coyote vs. ACME, a CG-animated hybrid film based on the beloved Looney Tunes cartoons featuring the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. Produced by James Gunn and directed by David Green with a reported budget of $70 million, the movie was close to completion when Zaslav decided to cancel its release as a tax write-off. It was the same thing that was done to the completed Batgirl movie a few years back, and a planned SCOOB! Holiday Haunt animated sequel was also killed last year.
Outrage came fast and furious as those involved with making the movie began speaking out on the decision, including composer Steven Price, and when other filmmakers began to realize that bringing their projects to WBD didn’t guarantee said project might ever get released, a number of them cancelled planned meetings with Warner Bros. in protest, and are waiting to see if the situation would get resolved.
Even the U.S. government got involved as Texas congressman Joaquin Castro slammed WBD for cancelling a $70 million project in order to procure a $30 million tax write-off, not the first time Castro has protested WBD for what he claims to be anti-trust issues.
Castro took to his socials to state: “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.”
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
Within a day or two, there was a reversal due to the backlash, as reported by Puck‘s Matthew Belloni, and Warners is allowing the filmmakers to shop the project around to other studios with a number of screenings already taking place to find a buyer. Stay tuned for more on this story, but don’t be surprised if the movie ends up with a streamer like Netflix or Amazon – the latter seemingly leading the pack as a frontrunner to pick up the distribution/streaming rights. There is no word on how much money WBD are expecting from a buyer willing to take Coyote vs. ACME off its hands.
We certainly can’t neglect the developments following the end of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA actors strike, with a tentative deal reached last Wednesday and actors being allowed to go back to work. The new three-year agreement hasn’t been ratified by the membership at large, but that will be taking place sometime this week. Not every member of the 160,000-strong group were for the new contract based on details that were released with one of the more vocal members against it being Justine Bateman. Bateman released a series of posts on X over the weekend, speaking out against the agreement over AI permissions that was approved by the SAG leadership and negotiating committee:
Bateman stated across four posts: “I will be taking the actual deal document (and not the “summary” SAG is planning to release) and explaining the violating #AI permissions the AMPTP will have over you. I’m very disappointed that the SAG leadership and committee did not take my guidance on the #AI issues.
I have spent time over the past eight months writing op-eds, doing press interviews, and posting on social media to warn my fellow entertainment workers about how the studios/streamers mean to discard you with generative #AI.
Why? Because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s unconscionable what the CEOs are doing, and because it would be immoral of me to not tell you just how the actors and crew, in particular, are going to be abused.
I’ve said from the beginning that the use of generative #AI will collapse the structure of this business. I want the actors and crew to have enough self-respect to turn over a table and flip the CEOs off as it happens. They’re going to leave you with nothing left to lose.”
I will be taking the actual deal document (and not the “summary” SAG is planning to release) and explaining the violating #AI permissions the AMPTP will have over you. I’m very disappointed that the SAG leadership and committee did not take my guidance on the #AI issues. 1/
— Justine Bateman (@JustineBateman) November 11, 2023
On Monday, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher defended the agreement during a Zoom meeting to pass on pertinent information to the membership, with more than 1,000 questions submitted in advance. “Sadly there have been some naysayers who have exploited this momentum of ours,” Drescher said, stating that people have “tried to tear down what was being done in the negotiating committee.” She also seemingly cited Bateman with the comment to members to listen closely to the details “if you haven’t yet been poisoned by contrarians.”
The union’s national board approved the deal by an 86% vote on Friday, allowing it to be sent to the membership for the important ratification vote.
(Coincidentally, Above the Line is announcing the debut installment of a new actor-centric column by Kevin E. West called “The Acting Biz” today. You can read Kevin’s initial column right here.)
Some production news is that Mike White‘s hit ongoing series for HBO/MAX, The White Lotus, has begun casting its third season with production planned to begin in Thailand in February. Standby for some casting announcements soon, but the first season won 10 Primetime Emmys and Season 2 has been nominated for 25 Emmys, though the awards show was pushed back to Jan. 2024.
Netflix’s hugely popular series Wednesday, starring Jena Ortega, is planning to film its second season next spring, but it has moved its production to Ireland for the next season after filming the first season in Romania. Apparently, the sets from Season One even became a bit of a tourist attraction.
Although James Gunn had been caught up in the Coyote vs. ACME drama mentioned above, he’s still hard at work as co-CEO of DC Studios, as well as gearing up to start filming his Superman: Legacy movie for Warner Bros. early next year. This week, it was announced that Ana Nogueira (The Vampire Diaries) would be writing Supergirl: Woman Of Tomorrow, a standalone film following Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El, but the movie is still in early development with no director attached yet.
A few other things on Above the Line to check out:
The Marvels Review by Edward Douglas
Saltburn Review by Abe Friedtanzer
Next Goal Wins Review by J. Don Birnam
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Review by J. Don Birnam
And more to read over at our sister site, Below the Line:
The Killer Review by Abe Friedtanzer
The Marvels Review by J. Don Birnam
We’ll close things off with an interesting trailer from Sony for next year’s Madame Web, starring Dakota Johnson and Sydney Sweeney, a new installment in the studio’s Spider-verse series, this one quite literally introducing the character who holds it together. Hopefully, the next installment of “Must Reads” will hit on Friday.
Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter provided some reporting for this installment of “Must Reads.”