With a multi-billion dollar Batman trilogy under its belt, and a Superman reboot showing signs of franchise life (despite a heavy second-week drop-off), it's understandable why Warner Bros. would now be squarely focused on (finally) getting their library of DC superhero movies developed into blockbuster tentpole movies. Of course, making that vision into reality requires more than a decision about whether to pursue standalone character films or a Justice League teamup; it also requires some shift in the business plan of making these movies.
If you've seen any of the Batman and/or Superman movies released in the 21st century, then you are likely familiar with the logo of Legendary Pictures, which has co-financed virtually every DC superhero movie released in the new millennium. In recent weeks it has become clearer and clearer that Legendary and Warner Bros. are headed for a split, and DC superheroes seem to be at the heart of the matter.
Variety reports the following on the Legendary/WB tensions:
Helping [Legendary CEO Thomas] Tull make the decision to leave was DC Entertainment. In addition to new leadership at the studio under the helm of CEO Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros. is looking to take more control over films based on DC’s superheroes and not offer the projects up to co-financiers the way it let Legendary back Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “Superman Returns” and “Man of Steel.” Legendary benefited from the success of those hits since it paid for half of their production costs.
Legendary, on the other hand, has been sharing a cut of their pie with WB, and also wants to hedge their bets on having more of a stake in what they expect (read: hope) are successful blockbuster genre film franchises. As Deadline reports:
Overall, Tull wants a much improved deal over his present one at Warner Bros. “He feels he was paying too high a distribution fee at Warner Bros for Pacific Rimand Godzilla which Legendary is making,” another source tells me. ”He’s paying over 10% fees for those movies. That’s high relative to what’s usually given the people who put up the money. He wants to pay 8% for the 10 to 12 films Legendary will be fully financing.”
Right now, of the two, Warner Bros. has a clear better bet with their DC superhero library than Legendary has with two untested giant monster movies like Pacific Rim and Godzilla; but then again, Warner Bros.' only superhero venture without Legendary was Green Lantern - and though Legendary was pretty much just a bankroll of the Superman and Batman films, and had little to do with the creative direction of the projects, the superstitious man might still be inclined to wonder if....
In any event, Warner Bros. has a lot to still figure out about how best to capitalize on their superhero properties. And with Man of Steel nowhere near the billion-dollar mark (at the time of writing this), that nagging debate about strategy ( Justice League versus a Batman/Superman team-up versus a line of standalone origin films) is going to likely rage all the way up until Comic-Con 2013, when we'll hopefully have some answers to the question of how DC/WB plans to spend their superhero movie budget in the next few years.