Warners Shifts Its Superhero Strategy

Warner Bros. has officially announced a restructure of DC Comics into a new company – DC Entertainment Inc. The mission statement of the new company is to “fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand and characters across all media and platforms” according to a press release.

Warner Premiere President Diane Nelson, who has overseen (and will continue to do so) management of the studio’s “Harry Potter” franchise, will head up DC Entertainment and report directly to Warner President Jeff Robinov.

This needed restructuring has been a long time coming, with the aim to obviously develop a raft of potential film franchises to match the success that DC’s main rival Marvel has had in the marketplace over the past decade with their “X-Men,” “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man” and “Hulk” properties.

In comparison the Warners/DC relationship so far has only yielded one major successful franchise in recent years – the two Christopher Nolan-directed “Batman” films. Only three other films based on DC characters have been adapted since 1998 with each financially fizzling at the box-office – the laughable “Catwoman” in 2004, the expensive and so-so reviewed “Superman Returns” in 2006, and this year’s well-reviewed but divisive (and financially disastrous) “Watchmen” adaptation. Other attempts to bring other superhero properties to the big screen have been stuck in development for years (“Wonder Woman,” “Justice League,” “The Flash”).

A few days ago a report on Deadline Hollywood Daily indicated that the studio has quietly gone to various high-profile producers like Chuck Roven, Joel Silver and Akiva Goldman to ‘call back’ their high profile DC titles in development.

That move essentially ends their oversight and gross participant shares on their respective projects and lets the studio (rather than the producers) have much more control over their properties and more importantly who profits off them. Silver’s adaptation of “The Losers”, currently shooting in Puerto Rico where various journalists attended a set visit last week (Dark Horizons wasn’t invited, pricks), is effectively the last of the pre-DCE adaptations that the studio will release.

The company has already finished filming on the “Jonah Hex” film adaptation in Louisiana which will be unaffected, but the restructure could impact “The Green Lantern” which is scheduled to begin shooting late 2009/early 2010 (it was to shoot in Australia but that plan may now be changing), and the recently announced Guy Ritchie-directed “Lobo”.

More importantly it could finally see proper film versions of “The Flash,” “Wonder Woman” and another “Superman” finally get some serious development. A third “Batman” helmed by Nolan is still very much on the drawing board but whether it will be in 2011, 2012 or 2013 is undecided and will depend on the director himself.