Texas congressman Joaquin Castro on Monday called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Warner Bros. Discovery for what he called “predatory and anticompetitive” practices, following the news that feature film “Coyote vs. Acme” was almost the latest of the company’s finished movies to be killed for tax purposes.
“The @WBD tactic of scrapping fully made films for tax breaks is predatory and anticompetitive,” Castro said in a message posted on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. “As the Justice Department and @FTC revise their antitrust guidelines, they should review this conduct. As someone remarked, it’s like burning down a building for the insurance money.”
Castro was responding to the news earlier Monday that WBD had backtracked on a decision, announced last week, to kill “Coyote vs. Acme.”
At the time, the company attributed the decision to a shift in “global strategy to focus on theatrical releases.” However, by shelving the film, the company would also be able to report a $30 million tax write-off, critics noted just after the company posted a brutal third quarter earnings report.
The decision generated a massive backlash from Hollywood creators. Filmmaker Brian Duffield, for example, revealed that it had tested very well and had interested buyers.
“The people working at Warner Bros are anti-art,” he declared. He was far from alone, and alongside publicly expressed outrage, several filmmakers who had meetings with WBD reportedly canceled them in protest.
Later Monday, the company reversed course and will allow the filmmakers to shop it around. Interestingly, among those filmmakers is James Gunn, cohead of the company’s DC Comics movie division who was hired by WBD boss David Zaslav to great fanfare in 2022. Gunn helped develop the story and he produced the film, and though he never issued a public statement on the matter, a Monday afternoon post on Threads indicated that he was among those who opposed shelving the movie.
This was the third time the studio axed completed films. Last year, Zaslav shelved the completed live-action “Batgirl” movie and the animated “Scoob! Holiday Haunt.”
And notably, after “Batgirl” was canceled, Castro called the company “outright hostile to content creators, creators of color, new voices trying to break into the industry” and said it “seems to go out of it’s way to make the company less inclusive while getting rich off the communities they’re sidelining.”