Warner Bros. Chief Dismisses Superhero Fatigue: ‘Everything Looks Different’

batman v superman dawn of justice
Warner Bros. Pictures

CEO Kevin Tsujihara also says DC movies are a bit 'edgier' than Marvel's comicbook pics

Nearly every major Hollywood studio has jumped on the comic book movie bandwagon, but despite the coming flood of Fantastic Four, Avengers and Batman films, Warner Bros. chairman-CEO Kevin Tsujihara thinks that moviegoers still have a big appetite for caped crusaders.

He dismissed any assertions that the business is suffering from superhero fatigue at Wednesday’s Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.

“The key thing is that the movies and the television shows and the games, everything looks very different …you have to be able to take advantage of the diversity of these characters,” said Tsujihara.

Not everyone seems to agree. The comic book movie pile-up was the subject of numerous jokes at this year’s Oscar ceremony, and the eventual best picture winner, “Birdman,” is a satire of the craze for superhero films.

However, Warner Bros. is making a big bet that the comic book phenomenon won’t fizzle out just as the craze for disaster movies, biblical epics and other once-hot genres cooled off. The studio is using sister company DC Comics’ stable of masked vigilantes and villains to make roughly two superhero movies a year beginning in 2016 with the release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” Other films include bigscreen adaptations of “The Flash,” “Aquaman” and “Shazam.”

The idea is to create a connected cinematic universe in which characters from one film interact with those from another, partnering, warring and creating super-teams such as the Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s “The Avengers.” It’s a strategy that owes a lot to Marvel, but Warner Bros. chief Tsujihara stressed that characters like Batman and Deadshot are very different from that company’s signature Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America brands.

“The worlds of DC are very different,” he said. “They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”

Part of the appeal of comic book movies is that the film business has become increasingly global in nature, with roughly 70% of box office coming from abroad on many major films. Characters like Superman arrive in China, Russia and other far-flung locales with built-in awareness, making the marketing campaigns easier.

“The big franchises are becoming more and more valuable,” said Tsujihara. “You don’t have to explain to the consumer what a ‘Batman v Superman’ is.”

No bigger issue dominated entertainment business news last year than the cyber-attack on Sony. The studio’s security breach resulted in the leak of company emails, budget details and other internal documents. It cost millions of dollars and strained relationships with top talent, who found themselves bluntly discussed in the correspondence of Sony leaders like recently ousted studio chief Amy Pascal.

Thoughts of cyber-security are clearly weighing heavily on Warner Bros., but Tsujihara said while the company is working to respond more quickly to any threats, he could not promise that hackers would never access the studio’s systems.

“We’re seeing more attempts to get into our system than ever before,” Tsujihara said.

The Warner Bros. chief was one of the only rival studio leaders who publicly said that the Hollywood community should have done more to rally to Sony’s defense when it was in the midst of a media frenzy surrounding the attack.

The hacking at Sony isn’t the only evidence of a new and sometimes threatening digital world. Amazon, Netflix and other new-media players are moving more aggressively into the movie business, but they are choosing to ignore standard release patterns. Netflix, for instance, will debut “Beasts of No Nation,” the Cary Fukunaga drama about child soldiers in Africa that it bought last week for $12 million, simultaneously in select theaters and on its streaming platform.

“The notion of guys like Netflix and Amazon creating movies is not a new one,” said Tsujihara. “HBO’s done big-budget movies for a long time. …Netflix has been a little more in your face to the theater owners than HBO was.”

Although major studios have tried at various points to pressure theater chains into shortening the window from when a film hits theaters to when it debuts on home entertainment platforms, Tsujihara didn’t seem eager to go to the mats with exhibitors again.

“Theatrical does set up a lot of the value for these movies,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified Deadshot, a DC Comics character, as Deadpool, a character from Marvel Comics.

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  1. Austin Whitley says:

    I doubt these movies will fizzle out. Marvel is always a hit. Dc is going to blow up now with all of these films. Frankly I don’t care about any other films out other then sequels. Disaster movies don’t fizzle out, have you seen San Andreas, miracles from Heaven is actually good so is Risen and the only genre cooling off is critical reviews lol

  2. RichM says:

    Super hero movies will always be around but I do think that the bubble will burst followed by a slow period. Marvel will not be the reason the bubble will burst it will be movies like DC Warner’s is making. Marvel slowly built their universe while DC is making a movie that has an everything but the kitchen sink vibe.

  3. Tiffany Ross says:

    I have DC fatigue! :D

  4. Anonymous says:

    Humor in superhero movies existed long before Iron Man

  5. Carbona says:

    It isn’t super hero fatigue. It is CGI that ignores the laws of physics fatigue.

  6. Kushagra Kumar says:

    Why do people want humor in every goddamn superhero movie?
    Before Iron Man, people didn’t know that there can be humor. And now there can be no movie without humor.
    It’s great that Marvel did include humor. Avengers was great, but damn it was dumb.
    Try to write down its story, it is encompassed within 5 lines.
    I am not saying Avengers wasn’t great. But, DC can create another type of universe.
    Give them a chance.

  7. JOE S HILL says:

    Whatever Mr Tsujihara is thinking,it sure better be good,because so far,i havn’t been really crazy about the casting choices that he and Zach Synder have made-and the costumes on some of these DC Comics
    icons still SUCK! i don’t care who or what kind of ideas are behind these Fashion disasters,but whatever it is,they better fix them,because when Marvel/Disney’s “THE AVENGERS:AGE OF ULTRON” gets released in another near two months,it’s expected to likely make LOTS more money,and set new Box Office records-so this Three year PR job that Warner Bros. has been doing,in selling “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” better be worth all the hype and potential,because Marvel/Disney’s movies are seriously kicking ass at the Box Office,and Warners and its DC Comics division are still behind here,and a lot is riding on how successful this 2016 movie is going to be! and so far,Jason Momoa’s version of “Aquaman” just isn’t doing anything here,mainly because he still looks like Jason Momoa,with a Trident,,and if that’s supposed to be anything special,i’m not impressed! the same sentiment is also aimed at Greg Berlanti’s TV shows on The CW,,those costumes SUCK!! for the million plus dollar budgets
    that these people have,would it be asking a lot,if they could just stick to making more reasonable Traditional costumes,instead of resorting to THEIR versions,of what these charecters should look like?
    because Brandon Routh’s “THE ATOM” also sucks! whatever that contraption he’s wearing is supposed to be,it sure doesn’t look anything like the charecter i grew-up reading-its just another BAD fashion disaster,,and one,that really isn’t very fair,to the millions of loyal comicbook readers,who know their charecters very well! way back in the early 1990s,the Lorimar TV division of Warner Bros. did a “JUSTICE LEAGUE” TV pilot,and THAT thing,was such a Disaster! doesn’t anyone learn from these kind of mistakes? Zach Synder also has a lot to learn here,and especially after his “WATCHMEN” movie was released-it meant well,and the costumes were perfect,,but this movie was still a real sleeper! sure hope that doesn’t get repeated here,because if this fails,then it’ll be a critical disaster to the DC/Warners franchise! sure hope they improve those awful costumes!

  8. Vicky says:

    Great. More ugly, dark, and depressing kid crap with no sense of humor from Warner Bros. Tank.

  9. Sam says:

    IMO WB is going the darker route with its DC movies because the DC heroes and universe was originally more light hearted than Marvel’s in the comics. If WB made its DC movies more “comic booky” in style (Aqua- man’s rep as being “lame” for example), only the hardcore fan base would be interested. The general movie going public would likely think of the material as campy or silly, but WB needs to win over general public to make a profit, or these SFX laden movies would never make their money back. Marvel’s heroes first took a more realistic approach in comics in the 60s (ex: Spiderman as regular Joe with real everyday problems), so Marvel movies can probably afford to stay truer to its comic book roots.

  10. Just Emma says:

    I personnally don’t think that “dark and gritty” is the best way to go about that kind of movies… It works sometimes but I like “comic booky” better. (PS: Deadpool belongs to Marvel)

  11. Jacques Strappe says:

    Nobody broods better than the Batman and nobody has a squarer jawline than Superman so there you have it, darker and edgier, respectively but better or more entertaining than Marvel? Not on your ambiguously gay skin tight, junk enhancing space age spandex suit!

  12. Mikey Arnwine says:

    DeadPool is MARVEL, not DC. So, until he actually reads the comics I can care less about what he has to say. Him and the rest of Hollywood banking off of superheroes.

  13. filmklassik says:

    I can’t believe this. I seriously cannot believe this. Isn’t there any interest in mid-budget genre movies for adults anymore (Yeah, yeah, “They’re doing those stories on TV now” except they’re not, not really. They’re doing them long-form, and serialization has it’s own imperatives. I miss movies like SEA OF LOVE and CHINATOWN. And BODY HEAT.)

    • K. Sparling says:

      I’m with you filmklassik; we could get 10 interesting films with stories and characters we’ve never seen before for the price tag of just one of these bloated retreads of comic book adventures. Alas, we are most certainly in the minority of the cinema audience, and the studios are run by bean counters with no imagination endlessly trying to increase profit for shareholders – so we are doomed.

  14. Paul says:

    Yes, the ‘edgier’ argument seems counter-intuitive given that DC’s characters are even more mythological and out there than Marvel’s characters are. Taking something so silly and darking it down, gritting it up and putting a fairly high adult edge on it which would cut much of the fanciful aspects and fun that they are known for in the comics seems like the dumbest way to approach adapting this stuff. It simply scream “We’re ashamed of our 4-color roots” and that doesn’t seem to be a good model to base such a large endeavor on. Marvel have succeeded largely by embracing their 4-color roots.

    • Sorry but the Donner movie was poor to me. Reeve never looked the part and Lex was all wrong. If you want that type of movie then Marvel is giving it to you. It’s nice and safe and easy going…I’m not knocking those Marvel films either. For the most part I have fun with them and can turn them on anytime while doing other things. Why get double that style though? I’d rather this approach from WB/DC and The DK trilogy and MOS were fantastic in my opinion. I loved that they are willing to give some fresh ideas to 75 years worth of material. I could watch an entire movie about Krypton alone. People fail to realize that MoS was Superman day one. Let him grow.

    • People always miss the point of grounded, realism and edgier. Yes the characters in DC are more powerful and other worldly than Marvel characters, but the content is not. DC has always approached society rooted topics and subjects that aren’t always fun. Both companies have done it, but DC is much more about that and has almost laser focus on it for the past 15 or more years. I like both for different reasons, but I find DC stories much more interesting.

      • Paul says:

        Or it could be that that argument fails to really hold water despite how many times DC apologists try to make it so. I can’t speak for others but just for myself DC has yet to return to the heights it enjoyed in the first couple of Chris Reeve Superman movies. That’s still their gold standard to me. That’s when they embraced their roots and were proud of where they came from and wanted to share it with the non-comic book reading public. I wish they still had that spirit. Because ever since they’ve either been of the mind of ‘yeah, wink-wink we KNOW this is stupid but just go with it and buy our toys’ that found it’s ultimate incarnation in movies like Steel/B&R or they’ve gone the other way entirely and attempted to distance themselves completely from whence they cam like most of the last decade’s offerings that they’ve made(TDK, TDKR, MoS, etc.) as if to say ‘we know we’re sorry we come from such stupidity, we’re really trying to shed all that baggage…please give us a chance!’. They swing from one extreme to the other and fail to realize the sweet spot is in the middle. Donner knew it. Marvel knows it. Why is it so hard for WB/DC to grasp this?

  15. Art Spear says:

    Yes they are less fun!

  16. bsbarnes says:

    Kevin Tsujihara has been measured but deliberate in the differences between DC and Marvel. For me, the bottom line is that Superman has been on the big screen since since 1941 with the Max Fleischer cartoons, so there is tremendous opportunity for Warner Bros. to exploit that history in ways that Marvel simply cannot. The movies and comic books were both in the doghouse of popular culture at the same time, though movies turned that around long ago. Let’s see what DC at the movies can really do!

  17. b1ckf0rd says:

    There is something like 10 to 12 movies that can be considered superhero/comic book movies out of hundreds of movies for all genres made in any given year. If you’re whining about fatigue, stay at home. Marvel hasn’t hidden the fact that they have a decades-long plan for theatrical releases and I’ll happily watch their 3 in the coming year. Some of us are pretty happy seeing characters we grew up reading on screen. Personally, I don’t give two ships about Antman but I am pretty excited for Avengers 2, Deadpool, Sandman (whenever that gets made), and Thor 3. I don’t care who the studio is if the movie is good. Man of Steel was a gigantic disappointment. Maybe Batman Vs. Superman will be better.

  18. Don’t you mean Deathstroke?

  19. Ono says:

    *cough cough* REALISM?

    I almost choked myself to death there. Realism? An alien containing a biocode, a battle with fellow alien, an Amazonian woman who is said to be a descendant of Zeus, and a guy who comes from Atlantis. REALISM? Or are we talking about different Man of Steel movie I have yet seen…

    Could you excuse me, I need to check if I’m feeling alright by just reading that statement.

  20. “Flood?” Give me a break. A handful of big budget comic book based movies a year. How many mid budget period pieces starring white men making the world a better place against all odds? The Forbes article by Mark Hughes “Tsunami of Superheroes” got it right, shot down all of those points 1 by 1.

  21. Steve says:

    “Edgier” means more contrived and sucky. BvS:DoJ will make a heap of money globally (but less than Avengers 2, and much less domestically). WB is rushing without a full blueprint. The trailers will be “EPIC” (a word that no longer means anything), but Nolan/Snyder/Goyer/et al can’t deliver stories half as satisfying as Justice League cartoons.

    • John says:

      Man, some fanboys are an awful lot like Terrence Fletcher. ARE YOU A RUSHER OR ARE YOU A DRAGGER OR ARE YOU GOING TO BE ON MY FUCKING TIME, except truly demented with no admirable goal in mind. Just a couple years ago all of you were bitching about not enough superhero movies from Warner Bros, oh they’re getting left in the dust! Warner Bros. has taken plenty of time. And they’re hiring their directors/writers/actors way in advance now. But no, now they’re rushing!

  22. The 2.5th Doctor says:

    One of the things DC is doing better than Marvel is lack of Synergy.

    Unlike Marvel, DC’s shows and films do not exist in the same universe. At first that might sound terrible, but actually it is quite brilliant. Each DC film and series can exist and do things that require them to tell their stories, but they aren’t restricted to do things based on a large continuity. Case in Point: Two Flash’s, Boomerang’s, Bruce Wayne’s, Alfred’s, etc.

    And unlike Marvel which copies their film continuity in the comics, video games, and animation, DC allow creators to do whatever they want to in those mediums as long as they are financially viable.

    • Anonymous says:

      I thought they were at least tying together the main movies.

      • BluLight says:

        They are. All of the WB/DC films, from Man of Steel and onward, will be linked together for the foreseeable future. The film series will have no ties to any of the DC comics and Television shows.

  23. B Smithy says:

    I’m a big DC fan but their grittier take is stepping away from what made their comics so great to begin with. Superman should not be killing people.
    Also, might be a typo in the article….Deadpool is a Marvel character, not a DC character.
    It’s weird to think that kids these days might grow up knowing more Marvel characters than DC characters, but maybe that’ll change.

  24. “Darker, edgier” — and also a lot less entertaining, Nolan’s Bat flicks excepted. Riding the Zack Snyder train for all it’s worth is going to backfire.

    • jakesf says:

      I think “darker, edgier” just means less “comic booky”, which I think is a great strategy because you won’t succumb as much to superhero fatigue. If you just treat these movies like any other action movie with a supernatural or sci-fi element, then you won’t immediately be branded as a superhero movie.

  25. The Kingslayer says:

    2016 is the year that might burst the bubble. Aren’t we getting like seven super hero movies that year?

    • There are 8 in ’16 (could be less if “Gambit” or “Sinister Six” isn’t on time), and 9 in ’17 (could be less if no “Venom: Carnage” or if “Justice League” is late). I think all the Spider-Man spin-offs should be cancelled. It’s honestly a bit much.

      • DougW says:

        I believe “Sinister Six” has been cancelled, with Drew Goddard moving over to the new Spider-Man movie instead.

  26. of course they are betting big says:

    Warner Bros started the superhero genre and were at the pinnacle with The Dark Knight.

    • Rob Watkins says:

      The Dark Knight is overrated. Great but overrated. Other than The Joker, can anyone tell me what was better about the Dark Knight than Batman Begins?

      • I liked Batman Begins better.

      • “Other than” arguments are always flawed. Take out one of the best pieces and what do you have in anything? Something inferior. One main difference in why DC movies can invoke more debate is their villains. They are far more developed and interesting than Marvel villains. The best Marvel movies have had the best foes, Iron Man and Winter Soldier. The Dark Knight felt like Heat where Avengers felt like Independence Day. Both great in their own ways, but not the same.

      • Ono says:

        That you mention it… I wonder if the hype for TDK would be as big had Heath Ledger didn’t die because of that movie? Hmmm….

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