Warner Bros. Preps More Superhero Pics

With The Dark Knight breaking box-office records left and right, Warner Bros. is not surprisingly keen on bringing more Batman and other superheroes from the DC Comics universe to the big screen. Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov recently told The Wall Street Journal that DC-based movies are a big part of the studio’s strategy to focus on bigger films made for the international marketplace. DC is expected to supply material for two of the six tent-pole releases Rabinov hopes to have in the pipeline for 2011.

With the success of Iron Man, Marvel Studios proved that a somewhat marginalized comic-book character could carry his own movie and capture the imagination of the movie-going public. Warner Bros. had plans to introduce lesser known DC heroes to the screen in Justice League of America, a pic that Happy Feet director George Miller has been developing. Originally slated to debut next summer, the movie has been stalled due to script problems, the writers’ strike and other complications.

Also on the shelf is Batman vs. Superman, a showdown that comic-book fans have been looking forward to seeing for decades. Warner will instead focus on reintroducing Superman. The studio’s big plans for Man of Steel franchise were deflated when director Bryan Singer’s $200 million Superman Returns failed to pay off at the box office. Warner Bros. is likely to go back to the drawing board with the property, much as Marvel did with this summer’s The Incredible Hulk. That film, however, didn’t do much better than Ang Lee’s 2004 effort, The Hulk.

Warner Bros. hopes to create a wider audience for Alan Moore’s DC graphic novel Watchmen. Slated for release in May of 2009, the film may never see the light of day if 20th Century Fox wins its court battle over rights to the property. Given the amount of publicity and fan-boy buzz surrounding the movie, it’s more likely that Fox will allow the film’s release and share in the profits should it prevail in court.

Fans can look forward to four DC-based superhero films in the next three years. In addition to a third Batman film and the Superman reboot, Warner is developing big-screen outings for Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman. Like director Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, these entries will reportedly be darker in tone. “We’re going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it,’ Rabinov tells The Wall Street Journal. The studio plans to announce its strategy for future DC movies next month. The big-budget releases will come at the expense of smaller films since Warner has streamlined its operations by closing down its art-house offshoots Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures.