Superman Reboot Confirmed by Warner Bros.

It's official, they are scrapping "Superman Returns" and pretending it never happened. WB President Jeff Robinov has announced that the studio is planning to start over, and reintroduce the man of steel--among other DC "tent-poles."

This informative article from the Wall Street Journal reveals all the good bits...

Emboldened by this summer's success with "The Dark Knight," Warner Bros.' movie studio is setting a new strategy.

The Time Warner Inc. unit, like some other Hollywood studios, is planning to release fewer films into the crowded marketplace. But the studio, known for making more big, expensive movies than most rivals, plans to make even more of those -- some centered on properties from its DC Comics unit, such as Batman.

Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov wants the studio to release as many as eight such movies a year by 2011. "The long-term goal of the studio is to take advantage of what has become a very global market by focusing on bigger films that require a bigger commitment," he says. Warner Bros. films released last year grossed $2 billion internationally, about 42% more than their $1.4 billion domestic take.

Mining the comic-book franchise is central to the success of Warner Bros.' strategy. Its lineup of "tent poles" -- Hollywood-speak for big movies that are the foundation of a studio's slate -- has thinned. Warner Bros. has been slow to capitalize on DC, and it now faces a rival in Marvel Entertainment Inc.'s Marvel Studios, the company behind box-office gusher "Iron Man."

Superhero films based on comic-book legends, like "The Dark Knight," have emerged as some of the strongest players in the global market, in part because they're natural candidates for tie-ups with consumer products and games that can also be marketed globally.

"Superheroes are more global than ever in today's commercial world, existing in 30 languages and in more than 60 countries," says Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics. The characters are "a world-wide export," he says.

Marvel's 'Iron Man,' was a big success at the box office. Warner has been slower to capitalize on its DC Comics characters.
"Films with our DC properties have the opportunity to support other divisions in the company in a way that our other movies don't," Mr. Robinov says, for example, with products such as a Superman game or toys. By 2011, Mr. Robinov plans for DC Comics to supply the material for up to two of the six to eight tent-pole films he hopes Warner Bros. will have in the pipeline by then.

While big ambitions can result in a huge payoff, they can also end in huge losses. Warner's car adventure "Speed Racer" bombed at the box office in May. The film, said to have cost as much as $150 million, has taken in only $43.9 million in the U.S. Some other big-budget Warner films, such as spy comedy "Get Smart," also have failed to meet expectations.

Earlier this year, Warner Bros. shut its two art-house labels, Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures. The studio currently releases 25 to 26 films a year. By 2010, Mr. Robinov plans to pare production to 20 to 22 movies a year.

A movie referred to internally as "Justice League of America," originally said to be for next summer, was planned as one of the studio's major releases. With that film, starring a superhero team, Warner hoped to spark interest in DC characters like Green Lantern who haven't yet attained the level of popularity of Batman. But script problems, among other things, have delayed the movie.

The studio said last week that "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," originally slated for November release, would come out next July -- on the same weekend that "The Dark Knight" opened this year. The Batman sequel made more than $150 million in the U.S. that weekend. "We just needed a July movie," said Alan Horn, president of the studio, at the time.

Warner Bros. also put on hold plans for another movie starring multiple superheroes -- known as "Batman vs. Superman" -- after the $215 million "Superman Returns," which had disappointing box-office returns, didn't please executives. "'Superman' didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to," says Mr. Robinov. "It didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned." "Had 'Superman' worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009," he adds. "But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all."

One of the studio's other big releases planned for 2009, "Watchmen," is the subject of a high-profile copyright lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox.

Based on the premise that superheroes are real people grappling with their own problems, "Watchmen" is an apocalyptic vision of their world. Fox says it is seeking an injunction to enforce its copyright interest in the film. Last week, a federal judge ruled that it may have rights to the property. News Corp. is the parent of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co.

With "Batman vs. Superman" and "Justice League" stalled, Warner Bros. has quietly adopted Marvel's model of releasing a single film for each character, and then using those movies and their sequels to build up to a multicharacter film. "Along those lines, we have been developing every DC character that we own," Mr. Robinov says.

Like the recent Batman sequel -- which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far -- Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as "The Dark Knight." Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.' DC properties. "We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it," he says. That goes for the company's Superman franchise as well.

The studio is set to announce its plans for future DC movies in the next month. For now, though, it is focused on releasing four comic-book films in the next three years, including a third Batman film, a new film reintroducing Superman, and two movies focusing on other DC Comics characters. Movies featuring Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman are all in active development.

Many of the studio's directors credit Mr. Robinov for taking Warner Bros.' films in a darker and deeper direction. Christopher Nolan, who directed "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," says Mr. Robinov "really encouraged the logic of the villain" from "Batman Begins." That led to focusing heavily on the Joker in the sequel. "At the script stage, Jeff really wanted us to be very clear on the Joker's lack of purpose," he says.
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