Time Warner Chief Jeff Bewkes on DC Comics Movies: ‘There’s a Little Room for Improvement’

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Time Warner chairman-CEO Jeff Bewkes told investors Wednesday that there is “a little room for improvement” in the creative execution of Warner Bros.’ DC Comics movie slate. But he stressed that the two titles released to date have been financially successful and have achieved the larger strategic goal of reinvigorating classic DC characters for a new generation of moviegoers.

Referencing the lukewarm critical response to this year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” Bewkes admitted during his Q&A at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia investor conference: “The DC Comics characters … have a little more lightness in them than maybe what you saw in those movies, so we’re thinking about that.”

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Bewkes said the studio has enlisted DC Comics entertainment president Geoff Johns and production guru Jon Berg to take a firm hand in guiding the upcoming DC releases. But he sees no reversal in Warner Bros.’ ambitious plan for releasing a string of DC-branded tentpoles through 2020, with “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League” to come next year.

“The strategy worked,” Bewkes said. “The execution did deliver what we wanted to do. We can do a little better on the creative. … We’re right on course or better” with the plan, he said, citing “Suicide Squad’s” legs at the box office. To date the pic released in August has grabbed about $720 million at the worldwide box office.

“The main thing was to launch DC and reinvigorate it with the fan base,” he said. “The reboot of Batman with Ben Affleck (in the role) was a big success.” He also noted that the fan reaction to actress Gal Gadot’s debut as the Wonder Woman character in “Batman v Superman” has been positive.

Bewkes also addressed the transformations underway at TNT and TBS, which are looking to draw a younger audience with shows that have more traction in social media than the broadcast TV-like strategy pursued in the past. He cited TBS’ new entries “Wrecked” and “Detour” as cable TV’s highest rated comedies with solid critical buzz being “exactly what we were aiming for.”

TNT is on mission to add edge to its dramas, starting with the mob family drama “Animal Kingdom,” which bowed in June and has been renewed for a second season. “You’re going to see more shows like that on TNT over the next year or so,” he said.

HBO’s focus is on growing its broadband-only business and a series of MVPD carriage renegotiations on deck over the next 18 months. Bewkes said an update on subscriber figures for the stand-alone HBO Now service would come at the end of this year.

In general, Bewkes said he was upbeat about the prospects for Time Warner’s biggest channels to continue to grow as the distribution landscape evolves in the coming years. New digital entrants such as Dish Network’s Sling and Hulu’s upcoming channel package will only enhance the value of Time Warner’s biggest brands. Time Warner took a 10% stake Hulu earlier this year, for $583 million, in connection with its agreement to be part of Hulu’s channel offering.

Moreover, the digital services are focused on providing cutting-edge navigational systems and easy-to-use on-demand features. The influx of competition is forcing the traditional distributors to offer more varieties of packages, which will improve the experience and hopefully lead to higher retention rates.

“We have tried to be at the forefront of that — helping existing distributors enhance what they are doing and helping the new distributors, which we think are a great opportunity for everybody,” he said.

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  1. Charles says:

    What a moron…. tone isn’t the problem.
    The tone is actually the best thing about the movies. Just keep the same tone and make a good movie.
    Marvels has their light tones and their movies are all the same!
    What happened to movies? It seems like 2008 was the golden age of comic book inspired films. After that, movies with a stupid redundant stories and cliche plot/dialogue.
    Suicide Squad would have benefited with a DARKER tone and less cgi cap! The pg13 rating also held it back. The shitty story and plot worked against it to; good thing characters were actually decent but were held back by lousy decisions by morons with ties…

  2. EricJ says:

    ‘There’s a Little Room for Improvement’
    “The DC Comics characters … have a little more lightness in them than maybe what you saw in those movies, so we’re thinking about that.”
    This week in Understatement.

  3. Cass says:

    I love DC and Marvel. I’m rooting for DC/WB to improve. I really am. But after Suicide Squad disappointed me after a full year of excitement, Wonder Woman better be good.

  4. BillUSA says:

    I like both the DC and Marvel franchises and I have no feeling whatsoever about the contrasting tones. But the only way I’ve been able to stomach a viewing of Batman vs. Superman is by literally skipping over scenes which, in all, amount to more than half the movie.

    I did so just last night. I skipped the desert scene, all of Bruce Wayne’s flashbacks, all the apartment scenes, the church scene with the cops, the Eisenberg/Hunter exchange in his home, all Lexcorp Tower-involved scenes, all congressional scenes, Clark’s hallucination, Martha’s kidnapping sequence, the Flash-Aquaman-Atomic Man sequence, Lois’ drowning sequence, and all of Superman’s funeral scenes.

    Not enough time was spent on the chemistry (as it was) between Diana and Bruce, the limited amount of dialogue was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the story. Perry White and Jenny weren’t utilized well enough. We certainly didn’t want or need Anderson Cooper. The choreography of the warehouse fight scene was too slow and looked staged (I realize they are, by nature, staged, but they don’t have to LOOK that way).

    And why wasn’t Christian Bale in the suit?

  5. solletaire says:

    I’ll always be rooting for DC and Wb to improve on their product. And it looks like they are focused on doing so.

    I also like the idea that they have a more central control over the franchise. I mean entirely creator-driven movies is a nice sentiment, but this is a sprawling franchise, not a bunch of unrelated indie movies.

    The one thing I am very surprised is that Zack Snyder is still around. Nothing against him, but it was his vision of Superman in Man of Steel that started this megafranchise on the wrong foot. I hope he doesn’t come back for Justice League 2.

  6. ed says:

    nding the keys to the DC Universe of comicbook characters to Zack Snyder and David Goyer was a mistake by WARNEwR BROS. To answer the MARVEL Cinematic Universe by making their movies “realistic” and “dark and gritty” defined by these two was laudable in contrast… but the execution (3 movies so far) was wanting, critical consensus-wise and not the billion-maker in ticket sales.

    The failure of the GREEN LANTERN movie might’ve drove WB to Snyder’s and Goyer’s arms to make them more serious than the MARVEL movies… but now WB is “course correcting” to make them lighter and include more jokes— i.e., just like the NARVEL movies. Creating the DC FILMS branch and instituting DC head Geoff Johns to co-head it is a step in that direction. Perhaps the WB movies NOW will be more true to their established comicbook roots.

    (Then again, giving a Ayn Rand follower and a writer who viewed She-Hulk and Martian Manhunter dismissively to make superhero films was a WB miscalculation. Especially if a central tenet to don the cape and cowl is to altruistically help people… )

    Let’s see if WB’s “strategy” to change an economically “successful” vision of their DC Fmils to have “a little more lightness in them” will sell more tickets.

    (Meanwhile, keep mining those DC superhero IPs for tv shows and movies, WB.)

  7. LupeX says:

    WB is trying to respond to the criticism as carefully as they can while still staying true to their vision and the canon. The more iconic DC comics have been darker tales and contemplative thoughtful graphic novels like The Killing Joke, HUSH, The Dark Knight Returns, WATCHMEN, Superman Peace On Earth, Superman Kingdom Come, Flash – Crisis On Infinite Earths etc.
    So tone is not the issue. afterall WB had monumental success with The Dark Knight trilogy form Nolan which was a dark joyless noir-ish trilogy

  8. Antonio says:

    The DC characters in the comics have been showed in both lighter and in darker stories, with the dark stories being the most iconic and successful. There was nothing wrong with the tone of BVS and SS, in terms of being faithful to the source material. It’s fine that WB is working to win back people who disliked those movies, though.

  9. TheAdventurousWriter says:

    That’s true.

    I like the idea of them becoming more free spirited, because that was always going to be the outcome. Chris Terrio, who wrote Batman v Superman always stated that it was going to get lighter in Justice League, so there’s a man of his word.

    But DC in general is known for its dark content matter at times, and I don’t want them to lose that. Let them do them. Just no more studio interference. That is all.

  10. Bas says:

    Nice one Bewkes.

    • CapitalP says:

      Yeah exactly. I don’t know why they have to change the tone, just make better movies with the same tone. If the tone is lighter and jokes are all over the place but the film sucks, that doesn’t mean the jokes will make the film better. I had no problems with Batman vs Superman. Suicide Squad was horrible and that was light hearted. I just hope they don’t screw things up by trying to copy Marvel.

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