“The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.” So claimed promotional material for Black Adam, the long-gestating DC Comics adaptation starring Dwayne Johnson as anti-hero Teth-Adam. Turns out, the claim was correct, just not in the way that Johnson and his team expected. Shortly after Black Adam‘s release, which not only introduced the Justice Society of America but featured the return of Henry Cavill as Superman, Warner Bros. restructured their DC Comics adaptations by starting DC Studios, headed by James Gunn and Peter Safran.
Amidst the chaos and speculation about the future of DC Studios, Johnson has tried to make a case for continuing Black Adam’s adventures after Variety reported that “the movie stands to lose $50 million to $100 million in its theatrical run, according to the estimates of insiders as well as rival executives with knowledge of similar productions.” Along with an announcement from Deadline, Johnson countered that story, arguing that the movie “will PROFIT between $52M-$72M.” Johnson put the movie’s earnings at “almost $400M worldwide,” which he compared to the profit turned by Captain America: The First Avenger. “We are building our new franchise step by step … for the DC future,” Johnson promised.
But according to insiders at Warner Bros., that future isn’t quite so certain. In a report for the Puck newsletter, Matt Belloni claims that “several Warners executives” believe Johnson leaked the more favorable numbers to inform the Deadline article, an article which Belloni says is “filled with false assumptions.” In particular, Puck points to that article’s projections about home media revenues, which may or may not happen. While Belloni allows that “nearly all movies of this size will ultimately pencil out after every window is exhausted over years and years,” that number isn’t certain and a profit cannot be confirmed.
As overconfident as it might seem, this type of self-promotion is nothing new, especially for an actor like Johnson. Furthermore, it’s understandable that creatives would be working to defend their projects, especially when the future is so uncertain.
Since new CEO David Zaslav took over Warner Brothers earlier this year, DC projects have been in upheaval. Not only was the nearly-completed Batgirl shelved, but numerous other projects were put on hold. Cameos from returning Batman Michael Keaton have been reshot with Ben Affleck as Batman, and director Patty Jenkins has exited Wonder Woman 3 leaving that project’s future uncertain. Despite this upheaval, Warner Bros. still has Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and The Flash on the schedule for 2023, all of which continue the DCEU established by Zack Snyder. And although its DCEU connections are unclear, Blue Beetle also continues to make its way to theaters.
Gunn has also assured people that he and Safran have a plan that will be revealed soon. The duo were hired by Zaslav to be the “Kevin Feige” of DC Studios, so we can hopefully expect slideshows and flowcharts thoroughly mapping out future projects. Until then, don’t be surprised if other creatives follow Johnson’s lead and try to secure their place in the changing hierarchy of power.