‘Coyote Vs. Acme’: Warner Bros Shelves Finished Live-Action/Animated Pic Completely As Studio Takes $30M Tax Write-off

In another maneuver by the David Zaslav-run Warner Bros Discovery to kill movies, we hear on very good authority that Warner Bros will not be releasing the hybrid live-action/animated Coyote vs. Acme, with the conglom taking an estimated $30M write-down on the $70M production. We understand the write-down for the pic was applied to the recently reported Q3.

This reps the third time that Zaslav’s Warner Bros has pulled the plug on a movie greenlighted by the previous Warner Media administration, the other two being the Max-destined Batgirl and the animated Scoob Holiday Haunt!

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The difference here is that Coyote vs. Acme is a completed movie with very good test scores, 14 points above the family norm. We’re told that the cash-strapped Warners finds that it’s not worth the cost to release the film theatrically or to sell to other buyers (and there are parties who are interested for their own streaming services; we hear Amazon kicked the tires). After reporting a mixed third quarter, the best means for Warners money is a tax write-off. At one point, Coyote vs. Acme was dated for theatrical release on July 21, 2023, before getting pulled; that date was taken by Barbie, which went on to become Warner Bros’ biggest hit of all-time at $1.4 billion worldwide.

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“With the re-launch of Warner Bros. Pictures Animation in June, the studio has shifted its global strategy to focus on theatrical releases,” said a Warner Bros. spokesperson. “With this new direction, we have made the difficult decision not to move forward with Coyote vs. Acme. We have tremendous respect for the filmmakers, casts, and crew, and are grateful for their contributions to the film.”

How ironic: Zaslav was involved in getting a new three-year deal between AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA as exhibition, and the Burbank studio, were starving for theatrical product in 2024 with several titles moving and leaving gaps. Certainly there’s money to be made on a finished film based on Looney Tunes IP. The 2021 sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy saw its ticket sales siphoned by the previous Warner Media administration’s theatrical-day-and-date model on Max during the pandemic. Still, the movie made $70.5M domestic, and another $93.1M abroad for a $163.6M global take.

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I’m told that a Max launch of Coyote vs. Acme isn’t a proper platform for the movie. There’s been buzz out there that the Gary Dauberman-directed, James Wan-produced feature take on Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, once destined for a theatrical release, is going to Max as the streamer needs product due to the inventory deficiencies created by the strikes. Warners says in regards to Salem’s Lot that the jury is still out and its brass hasn’t determined the vampire pic’s fate yet. Still, King is a brand name at the box office, and this is one of his classics. And horror works vibrantly at the B.O. post-pandemic. Surely, a $10M bare-minimum box office opening isn’t the worst thing in the world for a movie that will get legged out on Max, but it boils down to whether Warners wants to shell out $40M in marketing costs.

Directed by David Green and written by May December scribe Samy Burch, as well as DC Studios co-boss James Gunn and Jeremy Slater, Coyote vs. Acme is based on the Looney Tunes characters and the New Yorker humor article “Coyote v. Acme” by Ian Frazier. Will Forte, John Cena and Lana Condor star in the movie which follows Wile E. Coyote, who, after Acme products fail him one too many times in his dogged pursuit of the Roadrunner, decides to hire a billboard lawyer to sue the Acme Corporation. The case pits Wile E. and his lawyer (Forte) against the latter’s intimidating former boss (Cena), but a growing friendship between man and cartoon stokes their determination to win.

We’re told that director Green still is working with Warners on another project that’s in the works at New Line.

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Since its relaunch, Warner Bros. Pictures Animation under the new Zaslav admin is eyeing two pics annually starting in 2026. The division recently announced a partnership with Locksmith Animation, with Bad Fairies and The Lunar Chronicles currently in development, along with feature-length animated films based on the beloved Dr. Seuss classics The Cat in the Hat and an animated musical adaptation of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

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