Amid the shelving of the HBO Max movie Batgirl and the clear desire of Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav to find new leadership for the DC universe, DC Films president Walter Hamada has come to the verge of exiting the studio and consulted with counsel, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
Hamada has now agreed to remain in his post at least until the Oct. 21 release of the Dwayne Johnson film black adam, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. “He’s pausing,” says a source. “The decision has not been made to make this adversarial, yet.” Hamada could not be reached for comment.
The tension comes as Zaslav has vowed to do what he has called a “reset” with respect to DC, with a 10-year plan he hopes will allow the brand to compete with Disney-owned Marvel Studios, which has built the biggest film franchise in history. “We think we can build a much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC,” Zaslav said during Thursday’s earnings call. “As part of that, we are going to focus on quality. We are not going to release any film before it’s ready…DC is something we can make better.”
An insider says Warner Bros. Pictures Group co-chairpersons and CEOs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, who are overseeing DC until Zaslav settles on new leadership, informed Hamada at a recent black adam test screening that Batgirl, a $90 million film that was in postproduction, would be sheltered. The explanation was that given Zaslav’s strategy, the picture wasn’t strong enough to release theatrically and was too expensive for a streaming release. The company, under pressure to cut costs, elected to take a write-down on the project.
A source with knowledge of the situation says Hamada was upset at not being consulted and concerned about the impact on those involved in making the film. On Aug. 2, before talent and their representatives had been informed of the decision, the New York Post broke the news that the film had been sheltered. The Post reported that the film had low test scores and said a source described it as “irredeemable.”
In May, Warner Bros. Discovery canceled another DC movie headed to the streamer, Wonder Twinsjust after KJ Apa and Isabel May were cast as the leads.
Hamada assumed his role in 2018 during a fraught time for DC, which was struggling to find his footing after Justice League (2017) missed at the box office and there was no clear path forward for its cinematic universe.
During his tenure, Hamada has forged relationships with filmmakers such as Marvel favorite James Gunn, bringing him on board for The Suicide Squad (2021) and keeping him in the fold for Peacemaker, a spinoff for HBO Max. Rather than strive for Marvel’s closely interconnected universe of films, DC’s properties under his watch were only loosely connected — and sometimes took place in entirely separate universes, such as Joker (2019), which overperformed with more than $1 billion at the box office and earned Joaquin Phoenix a best actor Oscar, and Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022), which brought in $769.2 million globally, a strong figure for the pandemic.
Previous to DC Films, Hamada was an executive vp production at New Line where he oversaw the genre label’s hugely successful horror franchise The Conjuring and It (2017), which made it $701.8 million at the box office.