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Want to See This Film? Movie Studios Won’t Let You!

All this, industry watchers agreed, was not about cinematic merit. It was about accounting. Warner spent about $70 million making the film and might have gradually recouped that amount the usual way: by releasing the movie to paying audiences in theaters and on streaming platforms. But it might instead shelve the movie, interring it in a metaphorical graveyard and writing it off as a total, immediate loss, rather than absorbing that loss over quarters to come. One report estimated that this might net some $35 million to $40 million in tax savings, though a Warner spokesperson described that scenario as “inaccurate,” adding that no final decision has been made.

The purgatory of “Coyote vs. Acme” galvanized audiences in an interesting way. Unlike other high-profile cancellations — say, the 2022 film “Batgirl,” axed during postproduction and called “not releasable” by the head of (the Warner-owned) DC Studios — “Coyote” was a completed film. It was also, by all accounts, good; Will Forte, one of its stars, called it “incredible.” This wasn’t the movie’s first funeral, either. News of its cancellation was first reported on Nov. 9 — followed, later that day, by an anonymous member of the movie’s production team posting a behind-the-scenes reel of the crew’s work on YouTube. The video was taken down after a copyright claim, but it had already revealed some of the ingenious mayhem that audiences would miss out on: squished cars, real clouds of dust kicked up by an animated roadrunner, charming prop renderings of the cartoons’ rocket skates and hand-painted signs. Say what you will about the artistic value of a film based on a cartoon, but this movie looked like fun.