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Warner Bros. Shelves John Cena’s ‘Coyote vs. Acme’ Movie a Year After It Completed Filming (Exclusive)

A little over a year after the shelving of Batgirl sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood, Warner Bros. is putting another of its films in the studio vault.

Warners no longer plans to release Coyote vs. Acme, a live-action, CG animation hybrid that completed principal photography last year in New Mexico. The move follows veteran animation executive Bill Damaschke taking over Warner Animation Group earlier this year.

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“For three years, I was lucky enough to make a movie about Wile E. Coyote, the most persistent, passionate, and resilient character of al time,” filmmaker Dave Green wrote on X after this story initially published. “I was surrounded by a brilliant team, who poured their souls into this project. … Along the ride, we were embraced by test audiences who rewarded us with fantastic scores.”

The feature, which sources believe cost around $72 million to make, had key Warners talent involved in front of the camera and behind the scenes. It stars John Cena, who starred in Max’s popular DC show Peacemaker and who is due to return for the second season. And DC Studios co-head James Gunn produced the feature and worked on the story. Warners is intent on staying in business with filmmaker Green and is developing a project at sister movie arm New Line Cinema.

“With the re-launch of Warner Bros. Pictures Animation in June, the studio has shifted its global strategy to focus on theatrical releases,” a WB Motion Picture Group spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”

The previous Warners regime greenlit the movie in December 2020 as a production for HBO Max, its fledgling streaming service. It later announced that Coyote would get a release on July 21, 2023. No trailer was ever released for the film, leading to questions about the studio’s intentions for the project. In April 2022, Warners removed the feature from its release calendar, putting Barbie on its July 21 release date.

The film was based on Ian Frazier’s “Coyote v. Acme,” a humor article published by The New Yorker in 1990.

Warner Bros. Animation is seeking to release around two films a year, with upcoming projects including the Locksmith Animation features Bad Fairies and The Lunar Chronicles in development. It also has several Dr. Seuss adaptations in the works, including Cat in the Hat and an animated musical adaptation of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. Sources say that Damaschke is looking to shift the focus of Warner Bros. Animation to strictly theatrical-worthy fare, with aims of producing original movies as well as films based on the studio’s IP, including Looney Tunes, the stable of cartoon characters of which Wile E. Coyote is part.

Warners shelved the $90 million Batgirl and the $40 million animated feature Scoob! Holiday Haunt in August 2022 as a tax write-down, with newly installed Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav seeking to find $3 billion in savings across the newly created media conglomerate. Both Batgirl and Scoob! were intended for streaming, with Zaslav also shifting strategy in favor of theatrical releases. The move caused an outcry among the creative community.

Sources say that the studio, in this case, at least gave the filmmakers advance notice of the decision.

In his statement Thursday, Green concluded: “I am beyond proud of the final product, and beyond devastated by WB’s decision. But in the spirit of Wile E. Coyte, resilience and persistence win the day.”

Nov. 9, 1:59 p.m. Updated with the statement from Green.

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