Writer’s note: This is part two of a two-part article focusing on the timeline of events that have led to a possible sale of Warner Brother’s Studios to Universal Pictures. If You haven’t read part one, please do so here.
Anybody with their finger on the pulse of the entertainment industry can tell you that life has not been easy on the Warner Brothers lot. Years of ups, downs, triumphs and disasters has led us to this moment. As we turn the page and enter the latest chapter of the embattled studio, we can explore what the landscape would look like if the rumors are true and Universal Pictures ends up purchasing Warner Brothers.
You Don’t Mess With The Zaz!
After AT&T unceremoniously unloaded Warner onto Discovery Inc. in 2022, nothing was safe. David Zaslav took to the bloated production schedule with the precision of a drunken butcher and made it clear that nothing (save for inexplicably, the Velma series and Ezra Miller) and nobody was safe.
Batgirl, Scooby Doo, and a slew of other projects and personnel fell victim to the Zaz. In defense of the tactics used by Zaslav, this is what he was brought in to do. Warner was (and still is) hemorrhaging money. Even after the mass exodus of projects and budget cuts, Warner Brothers is still fifty billion dollars in debt. Zaslav needed to work quickly and efficiently to bring some semblance of order to the lot.
Despite his public denial, rumors began to circulate that Zaslav was trimming the fat to make Warner look appealing to potential buyers. The chatter is starting up again. Now Universal Pictures is at the center of the potential transaction and one has to wonder the effect that this possible sale would have on the entertainment industry.
Universal Makes The Most Sense
Universal and Warner Brothers have been on friendly terms for a long time. The studios have worked in harmony for quite some time now. As recently as 2020, they have formed a joint venture in entertainment. The two companies assist each other in overseas markets and of course; Universal has the theme park rights to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
This symbiotic relationship would make for a seamless transition, with Universal almost certainly acting as a stalwart protecting Warner’s rich history and legacy.
The Animation Department Would Have No Competition
Universal is already priming themselves to overtake Disney in the animated feature department. As far as Disney’s animation department is concerned, Rome is burning and Universal is on the march for an empire of their own.
- Minions is a franchise that has earned over four billion dollars worldwide.
- The Super Mario Brothers Movie is the second highest grossing movie of 2023 so far.
- How To Train Your Dragon is another billion dollar franchise.
- The Secret Life Of Pets continues to remain popular. The franchise is another crown jewel for Universal, hitting the billion dollar benchmark with just two movies.
- Shrek continues to print money for a Universal. The first four movies have earned over four billion dollars for the studio. That number will increase when Dreamworks officially announces their plans for a fifth installment.
If you take the hottest animation department in Hollywood and hand them the rights to the Looney Tunes characters, the possibilities would be endless. Warner has an illustrious lineup of characters in their animation department and they have been neglected. Universal wouldn’t make that mistake.
DC Films Could Finally Have A Chance Against The MCU
One of the biggest contributions to the recent failures on the Warner lot has been their mishandling of the DC film division. Under new leadership, Universal would have the resources to right the ship, and give fans a product that could possibly go toe to toe with the MCU. This would also benefit Disney, as Universal would most likely relinquish the film rights to The Incredible Hulk and Namor.
The Universal lot is in much better shape than the post-apocalyptic hellscape over at Warner. The mistakes and poor decisions that railroaded The Justice League, Man of Steel, and all of the other properties that should have been slam dunks for Warner, would not take place on a Universal production set. Also, given the recent cracks in the MCU armor, the time could be ripe for a rebirth of DC films.
The Landscape Could Change Drastically For Theme Parks
Universal has been working diligently to catch up to Disney in the theme park market. With Epic Universe scheduled to open in 2025 and a new theme park in the early stages of development in Frisco, Texas, the pressure is mounting for the House Of Mouse. In turn, Bob Iger has responded to this onslaught of competition, stating that he plans to spend sixty billion dollars on Disney’s own theme parks.
It seems like Universal has finally caught their attention.
If Universal buys Warner Brothers and obtains the rights to DC Comic’s extensive lineup of characters, that could be an incredible draw for theme park fans if it the property is handled correctly. There would be no restrictions on properties that they would be able to use at Islands of Adventure. They wouldn’t be advertising Marvel for Disney.
What may stand in the way of that vision is the licensing deal that Warner currently has with Six Flags. Ever since Warner Brothers had majority ownership of Six Flags in the 1970s, the theme park giant has had exclusive theme park rights to the DC Comics IP. Should Universal obtain the rights to DC Comics, it is unclear if they can negate that deal as the details of the contract are not made public.
It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Universal to find a way to restructure the current deal that Six Flags has with Warner Brothers. For the most part, the two companies aren’t in direct competition with one another. Six Flags hasn’t even had a property in Florida proper since Hurricane Andrew wiped out Six Flags Atlantis in 1992.
Disney Stands To Benefit As Well
This would open up a lot of doors for Universal theme parks. Coincidentally, Disney would reap some rewards as well. With Universal having their own IP to use in their parks, they might be willing to cancel the contract that gives them theme park exclusivity east of the Mississippi River. Disney would finally be able to introduce the East Coast Avengers Campus that is currently little more than a pipe dream.
Given the contentious relationship that Disney currently has with Universal over their Hulu agreement, It is realistic to assume that Disney will decide not to allow further use of The Simpsons by Universal. If and when that happens, the Springfield area will become a blank canvas full of possibilities for a Warner library owned by Universal. Looney Tunes land would be a possibility. They could turn it into Gotham City or Metropolis if they are so inclined, the possibilities extend far beyond the imagination.
If you have a theme park that has the rights to Nintendo, The Looney Tunes, DC Comics, and Harry Potter; you could very well have everything required in order to topple the Disney theme park empire.
Of course, this is all hypothetical. Universal could very well buy Warner Brothers, at the same time; Discovery Inc. might decide to hold on to the property and right the ship themselves. We’ll never know what’s going on until all parties involved sign on the dotted line. I will be so bold to say that Universal purchasing the Warner IP is the best and easiest way to preserve the legacy of a studio that deserves a much better fate.
Thank You for reading! When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frances, and my loyal hound Marbles. For more hot takes, follow me here and on our brand new YouTube channel. You can also check out more of my content on my author’s page.