No Ezra Miller, but lots of Batman and TV spots

At the end of August 2022, Ezra Miller went to Warner Bros. for their first meeting with cinema presidents Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. The encounter followed months of legal and personal troubles for the actor, with a string of arrests and bad headlines threatening to derail the flashthe $200 million feature that Miller had been tied to since 2014. Weeks earlier, Miller had apologized for their behavior — which included trespassing and choking a woman in Iceland during a incident captured on video – citing ‘complex mental health issues’.

The question everyone was asking that August day: Could Miller stay out of trouble and the headlines long enough to the flash enter theaters safely? Ten months later, the answer seems to be yes. Miller not only stayed out of the headlines, but the actor is nowhere to be seen in the press as the film races towards its June 16 release date.

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Instead of touting its star, the studio has focused on the film itself, pushing it to perhaps unrealistic levels. CEO David Zaslav and DC Studios co-head James Gunn have publicly declared the feature to be among the greatest superhero movies of all time. This has prompted puzzled head tremors from some at Warners who question the wisdom of setting such high expectations.

“It can’t be the studio telling you it’s good; your friends have to tell you it’s good,” says an insider.

The first reviews, dropped on June 6, are solid, but not the type of reviews received by The black Knightconsidered the greatest film of its kind. the flash currently sports 72% on Rotten Tomatoes, good enough to beat JokerWarners 2019 Oscar, $1 billion hit, which has a score of 69%.

The studio faces several other headwinds that affect The flash’s projected opening – a mild $70 million to $75 million. Some superhero movie fatigue is real, as is the perception that these upcoming DC movies, including August’s blue beetle and December Aquaman and the Lost Kingdomare less pressing as Warners is relaunching a slate of entirely new films, with new actors to fill the superhero roles, under the aegis of DC Studios bosses Gunn and Peter Safran.

We do not know how much is perception and how much is reality. Both execs said some in-universe actors might persist, and the one that seems most likely is Xolo Maridueña, whose Blue Beetle character has strong comic book ties to Booster Gold. Gunn and Safran are planning their own Booster Gold show, and Blue Beetle may appear there, according to Beetle’s reception this summer.

So far, Warners has brushed off Miller in the press in favor of director Andy Muschietti, producer Barbara Muschietti and Supergirl actor Sasha Calle as the film’s ambassadors.

On June 12, Miller is set to attend the film’s premiere, which will likely be dubbed a “fan event” – an event where the stars walk the carpet but don’t answer any questions from reporters. The studio already has experience in such hybrid events. In April 2022, he organized an event in New York to Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secretswho has been mired in his own controversies around author JK Rowling, the Johnny Depp recast — and even Miller, who was arrested in Hawaii days before the event.

Instead of touting its star, the studio enlisted celebrity champions, courting celebrities for preview screenings. Stephen King saw it. (“I don’t usually care much about superhero movies, but this one is special. It’s heartfelt, funny and dazzling,” he tweeted.) Jaden Smith too. (“uh best movie ever,” he wrote on Instagram.) Tom Cruise was also treated to a preview screening at his home. (He didn’t tweet his review, but is said to have liked it.) In fact, the studio mounted what one person described as one of the most robust scouting campaigns in recent memory. to make the buzz, with tens of thousands of people who saw it.

Rival studios note that Warners spent heavily on spots and especially trailers, running the latter during the NBA playoffs. An executive believes Warners paid more than $14 million to the NBA alone, though that also includes a spot for Barbie. (A Warners insider says the figure was lower.)

“They spend a lot, a lot. It’s a massive campaign,” says the executive familiar with these deployments.

And while Warners can’t rely on The Flash himself to draw in audiences, he hopes Batman, one of the world’s greatest superheroes, can, and the nostalgia factor of a Michael Keaton return. . Both have been heavily profiled in campaigns, and Keaton showed up for a fan event in London last weekend.

But we don’t know if that resonates. Having both Keaton and Ben Affleck back as Batman drew comparisons to success Spider-Man: No Coming Home (unfairly, as Flash was originally supposed to arrive in theaters before this film). And on the other hand, moviegoers may feel like they’ve recently seen a Batman movie, in the form of Robert Pattinson. The Batmanreleased in 2022.

“They’re not promoting The Flash as a character because they can’t,” a rival studio executive said of not focusing too much on Miller.

Normally, the studios would also have late-night talk shows, but due to the writers’ strike, those shows were shut down. It was a blow to movies, but in the case of Flash, this can be beneficial. Miller isn’t noticeably absent from the shows, and the co-stars don’t have to answer awkward questions about their struggling star.

“It hurt everyone equally,” says the rival leader, “but in their case it hurts them less.”

A bright spot for Warners has been filmmaker Andy Muschietti, who is a studio favorite after the success He movies. While Miller’s future with DC is an open question, Muschietti’s doesn’t appear to be. He is the first choice to direct the Batman feature film The brave and the daringseveral sources say THRalthough there is no script – and therefore no formal commitment from the filmmaker – until the post-screenwriters’ strike materializes.

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