How Warner Bros. Should Develop A Justice League Film (Part 3 of 3)
Author: Mark Hughes
August 24, 2012

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PART 2: "The Payoff"

I havenít mentioned any specifics about a potential Justice League movie yet, so let me do that now that Iíve laid out the setup and the details previously in Parts 1 and 2 of this op-ed.

My feeling is that David Yates would be a perfect choice to direct a Justice League movie, after his phenomenal success as filmmaker for the last half of Harry Potter films. He demonstrated a keen eye for big storytelling that encompasses multiple subplots and character arcs, has a terrific style and eye for telling fantastical stories that are at once serious and adult while still having broad appeal to younger viewers, and he is the kind of filmmaker who knows how to handle and thrive under the pressure of a giant franchise with lots of high expectations that need to not only be met, but exceeded. Just give him a solid script that is serious in tone, perhaps something inspired by Justice League stories like TOWER OF BABEL orKINGDOM COME; or perhaps a Darkseid invasion tale loosely inspired by some of FINAL CRISES. I assume Warners would be willing to budget $200+ million for this one, as well they should, and it would be in high quality IMAX 3-D. Go big, or go home, that should be the driving attitude behind the project (and really, behind this entire broad plan).

It's all about having a plan, being confident, and promoting the heck out of each of the films with all-out marketing blitzes, tie-ins, merchandising, you name it. They'd make more money that way off these solo franchises than they'll make from Justice League, and if one of those films flops then it doesn't sink the other franchises. But if they go straight to Justice League and it tanks, it's going to drag down any chance to do franchises for characters besides Batman and Superman.

The bottom line for Warner Bros. is that more franchises mean more money, more chances to get things right, and less risk of messing things up early. By investing strongly and confidently on the front-end, they build up the potential of the Justice League film later -- and the postponement for Justice League isnít really all that long anyway, just a couple of years to allow for three extra solo franchises that will help drive the buzz and anticipation to dizzying heights. This plan builds to something instead of trying to leap right into it without laying the groundwork first.

Warner Bros. goals should also be to create critically acclaimed superhero adaptations that are a darker and more adult alternative to what Marvel's doing (I personally love the Marvel films and respect what they did, but DC is different and needs to go for a different tone and style). They'll set a new standard again in superhero films, the way Nolan's ďDark Knight TrilogyĒ set a new standard. And it will set a new standard for box office success, too, when this plan leads to a financial windfall thatís precisely what Warners needs.

With the HARRY POTTER franchise over, the studio is losing a cash cow film franchise that for about ten years brought in revenue to the tune of something like $1 billion per year (when you average it out for the decade). Warner Bros. needs to find a way to generate that revenue for the next decade to come, and the best properties they have capable of combining into a plan that can hope to match what HARRY POTTER generated is a DC film universe that has solid solo franchises in the hands of filmmakers with creative control and no dictates to interfere with their artistic designs, as part of a master plan that sets up six initial franchises and spins off perhaps one or two more, alternating multiple films each year and leading into repeated Justice League team-up ďeventĒ films that blow the doors off the box office every three years.

If the first Justice League film could match what THE AVENGERS made in theaters, the total combined box office from this plan would likely be near $5 billion in receipts by 2016. With a second round of sequels, plus some spin-off franchises from the Justice League movie, itís likely that the next four year development and release period would generate even more than the first roundís $5 billion. And that would establish multiple franchises that feed off one another and continue generating the revenue to make up for the loss of HARRY POTTER. If a particular franchise doesnít perform well enough, it would of course not get a sequel, but since spin-offs would also be part of the equation for the second round of films, there would still be plenty of potential to keep the process moving.

Warner Bros. has the chance to craft a strong plan and then move ahead confidently and aggressively and establishing great solo franchises and building a popular DC universe on film, leading into their desire for a Justice League film that sets box office records. This is the path to achieve those goals, and I hope Warner Bros. considers it and makes the choice to pursue it.

Longtime BOF'er Mark Hughes is former media specialist & campaign ad writer. He now works as a screenwriter for film & TV.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkHughesFilms and read his Forbes blog, "REEL ESTATE."

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