David Zaslav cans Warner Bros. Looney Tunes film for tax gains


Dave Green now knows what it feels like to have been the directors of Batgirl, the DC Studios movie canned by the cost-cutting CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav. 

His upcoming Coyote vs. Acme film starring John Cena would have pitted the legendary Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote in a legal battle with the corporation whose innumerable products all end up backfiring on the animated animal. 

As of Thursday, it’s yet another write-down to harvest taxable losses, just like the $90-million Batgirl after Zaslav wielded the axe before the movie could ever hit theaters. Not even his streaming service MAX will carry the film—it simply ceases to be.

“For three years, I was lucky enough to make a movie about Wile E. Coyote, the most persistent, passionate and resilient character of all time. I was surrounded by a brilliant team who poured their souls into this project,” the director wrote on social media Thursday. “I am beyond proud of the final product, and beyond devastated by WB’s decision.”

Cena, star of the Fast & Furious franchise, simply posted “The End” behind the iconic Looney Tunes background. 

Zaslav’s entertainment giant, forged through the debt-financed acquisition of AT&T’s media assets last April, is lugging around liabilities currently worth $45 billion, and the CEO has stated his top priority is to de-lever his ailing balance sheet.

That’s because the entertainment industry is undergoing a “generational disruption” as advertisers pull their commercial spots from cable and free-to-air television in favor of digital platforms, where they can micro-target consumers at a far more affordable price.

Simultaneously studios need to ramp up spending on content for their streaming services to keep pace with industry leader Netflix just as demand tails off for the incumbent entertainment industry’s once lucrative linear programming and news channels such as Zaslav’s own TBS and CNN.

Studio calls it a ‘difficult decision’

For the Warner Bros. Discovery boss, the combination of heavy interest payments to service its debt and a collapse in TV advertising translates to a consistent stream of red ink, including $7.4 billion in 2022 and another $2.7 billion through September. 

Investors just suffered their biggest one-day loss in two years this week after shares plunged by a fifth amid warnings from management that WBD could miss its debt reduction target for 2024. Overall the stock has underperformed the broader S&P 500, gaining just 2.6% since the start of January.

In a statement to industry publication The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson from the WB Motion Picture Group thanked the efforts of the cast and crew, calling it a “difficult decision” not to move forward with the film.

For fans who had hoped to see Green’s work, there’s always old reruns of classic Looney Tunes to watch on WB’s own networks. 

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