Wile E. Coyote can’t catch a break even when he’s not trying to nab the Roadrunner. A few months ago, Warner Bros. decided to shelve another movie, an animated/live-action hybrid called Coyote vs. Acme, which stars John Cena and Will Forte and finds Wile E. Coyote suing Acme, the company that makes the equipment that keeps blowing up in his face. Then, after a massive backlash from Hollywood creatives that included angry phone calls and canceled meetings, Warner Bros. decided to let director Dave Green and the film’s producers sell it to another studio. Well, that seems unlikely now, according to a piece from The Wrap. It appears Warner Bros. contacted Chris DeFaria, one of the movie’s producers, and told him the top brass “want to close the books” on Coyote vs. Acme, with the filmmakers believing that WB will use the year’s first quarterly earnings report, which takes place on February 23, 2024, to “delete” the movie for good, with no announcement.
Why have the filmmakers had so much trouble selling Coyote vs. Acme? According to them, everyone who’s seen it loves it, and Amazon, Netflix, and Paramount were interested in buying it, with Paramount even offering a theatrical release. But none of them wanted to meet Warner Bros.’s price, which would have been $75-80 million, especially when the studio made it clear they were not interested in negotiations. It looks like nobody wants to pay that much for Coyote vs. Acme, and with the clock ticking towards the earnings report, things aren’t looking good for the Looney Tunes and their new live-action buddies. Needless to say, people are angry, especially with the rumor from what The Wrap calls “a source close to the project” that the four executives who made the call to dump the movie never saw its final version. Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, who head up Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group, saw the directors’ cut, while Bill Damaschke, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Animation, saw an audience preview, and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav hasn’t seen it at all.
This is a thorny issue, and it’s more complicated than pretty much anyone is suggesting. The practice of simply disappearing movies is disturbing, and I understand why filmmakers wouldn’t want to work with a studio that makes this a common practice. According to another of The Wrap’s sources, canceling Batgirl made Warner Bros. comfortable with the idea of simply discarding movies and taking the tax write-off, so they’re not even wrestling with it anymore. It may be too short-sighted, and it’s likely making much of Hollywood fear for their art, especially if other studios follow WB’s lead. On the other hand, there are business aspects to consider. Coyote vs. Acme isn’t something Zaslav and the other executives who made this call commissioned; it was a holdover they were stuck with, and if they’ve determined it won’t make money, they’ve got to take a financial hit on someone else’s decision – “someone else” being the people whose mess they were brought in to fix. And, though they only did so under pressure, they did offer the filmmakers a chance to shop the movie around so it could be released, and their asking price was fair. Coyote vs. Acme cost $70 million to produce, and I don’t blame them for wanting to make a small profit on something they’re letting go. And as John Nolte points out, if the movie is as well-liked as the people who made it insist it is, why won’t Netflix or Amazon shell out the production costs and a little extra? How much could they believe in Coyote vs. Acme if they’re only willing to buy it at a discount?
I feel bad for the filmmakers, actors, and everyone else involved in making Coyote vs. Acme; it’s got to be soul-crushing to see your creative endeavor thrown in the garbage. But I understand where Warner Bros. is coming from, and their price for selling the film was perfectly reasonable. It’s a hard situation, but I don’t think there’s a real bad guy here, just people boxed in by the choices of others. I don’t like canceling movies that were already made, but when a company is bleeding money and has what it judged will be another bomb on its hands, taking the safe route makes sense, especially when everyone else makes it clear they won’t roll the dice on the film. I hope this practice stops in the very near future, but that probably depends on how many pre-Zaslav movies are waiting in the wings.