Warners Reverses Course in ‘Coyote vs. Acme’ Fight

Warner Bros. film chiefs Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy
Warner Bros. film chiefs Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy Photo: Leon Bennett/WireImage
Matthew Belloni
November 13, 2023

I’m told Warner Bros. will now let the filmmakers of Coyote vs. Acme shop the movie to other potential distributors. That’s a big about-face from earlier this week, when Warners said that the long-finished $70 million Looney Tunes film, directed by Dave Green and starring John Cena, Will Forte and a C.G.I. Wile E. Coyote, would be shelved indefinitely without any ability to place it elsewhere, à la the infamous Batgirl and Scoob! sequel.  

Warners declined to comment, but a good source tells me the decision was made this weekend by Warners film chiefs Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, along with new animation head Bill Damaschke, after the online outcry by filmmakers and the animation community, as well as some heated back-and-forth between the studio and reps for the director and stars. Warners had agreed to pay the top talent their streaming bonuses despite the film being scrapped, but obviously, everyone involved in this project wants it to be released by someone.

Coyote vs. Acme is another sign of these weird times, one of those caught-in-the-middle-of-two-strategies movies that was greenlit by Toby Emmerich back in December 2020, when the mandate from WarnerMedia leadership was to make as much product as possible for streaming, cost be damned. When current C.E.O. David Zaslav took over, $70 million direct-to-Max movies went bye-bye, so Warners pivoted to theaters. But some internally questioned whether the film played theatrically enough. Contrary to Green’s claim on social media that the film “was embraced by test audiences who rewarded us with fantastic scores,” it actually didn’t test that well, I’m told. And Damaschke, who is formulating his own strategy for Looney Tunes, feared the brand damage of an underperforming film, especially on the heels of Space Jam: A New Legacy grossing only $163 million worldwide. So they scrapped it. Another source who’s seen the movie said it’s definitely good enough to take a swing in theaters, but Warners is understandably gun-shy these days, given its financial situation.