HBO Max's Batgirl movie might release first in theaters after all

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

Warner Bros. is considering a big shake-up of its HBO Max release strategy for mid-budget DC movies, according to a new report from Puck News founding partner Matthew Belloni.

In the report, the ex-Hollywood Reporter writer details an alleged debate that's going on at Warner Bros. right now regarding whether it should scrap plans to release its mid-sized superhero movies directly to HBO Max and give them the same theatrical window that was afforded to The Batman.

According to Belloni, the upcoming Batgirl film may be one of the first to benefit from the proposed change in strategy. "But maybe, [Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman] Toby Emmerich and his Warners team are thinking, now is the time to invest a bit more money into Batgirl, perhaps up the visual effects and the music budget and the planned marketing spend, and give the movie a theatrical run first?"

Belloni posits The Batman's success as one of the main reasons Warner Bros. is thinking of updating its approach. "The Batman, admittedly the company’s marquee superhero property, is putting up huge numbers on [HBO] Max, I’m told, even after generating $750 million in theaters over 45 days (or, perhaps, because it generated those numbers)," says Belloni.

Movie theaters are back, baby

Apart from The Batman's enormous box office takings, Belloni thinks Netflix's recent downturn may also have something to do with the studio's reluctance to rely entirely on streaming numbers for its smaller DC films. "The Great Netflix Correction of ‘22 is causing Warners and all of Hollywood to rethink the “all-in” strategy for streaming," says Belloni.

It's also worth noting that the strategy to release smaller DC movies exclusively on HBO Max was the brainchild of Jason Kilar, who has now moved on from his role as WarnerMedia CEO following the company's recent merger with Discovery. With this in mind, it's no surprise that new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav would want to go in a different direction.

Of course, Batgirl's proposed theatrical run wouldn't be the first time Warner Bros. has changed its mind about one of its made-for-HBO Max movies – late last year, DC’s Blue Beetle movie, which stars Cobra Kai’s Xolo Maridueña, traded its original streaming slot for a theatrical release on Aug. 18, 2023.

However, if there's one big takeaway from this news, it's that movie theaters are finally starting to return to some semblance of normal with the easing of Covid-based restrictions around the world. 

The Batman demonstrated how a film can deliver huge box office takings and streaming numbers when released in the right way, and we imagine the rest of Hollywood is sitting up to take notice.

Batgirl, which stars Leslie Grace in the title role, opposite J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Michael Keaton as Batman and Brendan Fraser as Firefly, has yet to receive an official release date, though we expect it to arrive by the end of 2022.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.