Why The Team Behind Scoob! Holiday Haunt Finished A Canceled Film
Back in August, Warner Bros. Discovery made the baffling decision to cancel several near-complete projects in exchange for a $40 million tax write-off. One of the projects that got caught up in that was Scoob! Holiday Haunt a sequel to the 2020 film that was set to come out on HBO Max in December. The thing that makes the Scoob! Holiday Haunt cancelation even more fascinating than the Batgirl cancelation is the circumstances under which Scoob! itself was released. In April 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Universal took the plunge and released Trolls World Tour as a PVOD release when it was supposed to be a theatrical release. Before that, a few studios had released movies early to streaming or VOD, like Disney or Warner Bros., but no one had taken a theatrical release and made it a PVOD offering, entirely skipping the theater. It did well for Universal, and a month later, on May 15th, Warner Bros. took a similar risk and released Scoob! as a PVOD film.
It didn't do as well as Trolls World Tour, but it was the top-rented film on Amazon Prime, Google Play, FandangoNow, Spectrum, and iTunes during its opening weekend. It stayed at number one for the second weekend of release on all of the services and stayed at number one on three of the four services. By weekend four, it was number one on FandangoNow, second on Amazon Prime, and fourth on iTunes. A price dip in the fifth week from $19.99 to $15.99 revived things a little, and in October 2020, The Hollywood Reporter said Scoob! was the third most popular PVOD title of the pandemic behind Mulan and Trolls World Tour. The fact that it was the third-best PVOD offering of the pandemic with a short PVOD window, May 15th to June 25th, is quite impressive. While not a critical smash, it did well enough that a sequel was confirmed in June of 2021. By August 2022, the creative team was finding out through social media that the project was shelved, which director Michael Kurinsky detailed to Variety as a very shocking way to find out.
"According to Warner Brothers, news had gotten leaked," he said. "And they weren't able to call us by the time this news had leaked. So, we found out in a shocking way."
Kurinsky and his team went to finish the film that was weeks away from being complete. The news that Scoob! Holiday Haunt was finished was announced over social media last week to some very confused reactions. The film can't be seen; it can't be monetized because of the terms of the tax break, so why finish the film? According to Kurinsky, they were already paid to finish the film.
"The reason we were able to finish this movie is because it was already paid for," he explained. "I can't say it was [Warner Bros] saying, 'Please finish this movie; we want you to.' I think it was more like, 'Finish the movie because we've paid to finish the movie.'… At the end of the day, I don't care why and how it got finished. I'm glad it got finished because so many people worked so hard to make something so beautiful and really great."
However, while they were paid to finish Scoob! Holiday Haunt, and it was something they were going to do anyway; it was hard to cheerlead the team to finish a movie that wasn't ever going to be seen by anyone.
"We're working with seasoned professionals here, and I was trying to be the best cheerleader I could," Kurinsky said. "I mean, I was really hurting inside. And yet I'm in these meetings, and I have to inspire and keep this enthusiasm up for finishing this movie. I was doing everything I could to keep the bravest face because I wanted to keep everybody's enthusiasm up… I'm so thankful for everybody that, even though they knew this thing doesn't have a chance of coming out, they still worked like it was coming out."
While Scoob! Holiday Haunt was finished, however, nothing about the circumstances around the film had changed. To keep the tax credits that Warner Bros. Discovery got for the film, they can't make any sort of profit off of the movie, which means it can't be released in any state. So the movie was finished; it was a bittersweet moment for all involved. Kurinsky says that he would go through the whole experience again, regardless of the outcome, and he is "a better storyteller. And I wouldn't trade that experience for anything." This was the first time he got the chance to direct, and even though no one could see the film, he still got that experience and that learning that comes from doing. He compares it to the question, "if a tree falls in the woods and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound?" For Kurinsky, the answer is "yes, it does."
"…And the answer after this experience is a resounding yes. It absolutely makes a sound. Just because the public doesn't see it, there are people who have seen it and people who have worked on it. And it absolutely makes a sound. This movie made a beautiful sound that one day I hope everybody can hear."
Is there any hope for Scoob! Holiday Haunt or any of the other films or television shows caught up in the bloodbath that was Warner Bros. Discovery? Maybe, maybe not, but it's good to hear that at least someone is coming out of that experience and seeing the good in it. We can hope that everyone involved with not only this film but all of those shelved projects moves on to bigger and better things that get to be seen by the biggest audience possible.