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Jared Leto says releasing Suicide Squad’s #AyerCut is ‘what streaming’s for,’ but do the numbers add up?

Joker strikes again

Jared Leto Suicide Squad
Jared Leto in Suicide Squad
Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s been five years and one reboot since the release of DC and Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad, but Jared Leto hasn’t given up on a long-held dream: the release of the “Ayer Cut,” an edit of the movie which director David Ayer has said significantly differs from what audiences saw back in 2016.

Speaking with a reporter from Variety at the Los Angeles premiere of House of Gucci, Leto argued that the modern realities of film distribution should make releasing the Ayer Cut in some capacity a no-brainer for Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment.

“Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they? I mean, that’s what streaming’s for, right?” he asked.

Why wouldn’t they, indeed, seconded Ayer himself in a tweet. The chance to release a second cut of a movie is “exactly what streaming is for,” Ayer said, trying to appeal to the business sense of any executives reading. If you own IP and you have a mandate to monetize it from your shareholders that’s exactly what you do,” tagging Warner Bros.’ parent company AT&T. (Though AT&T recently sold WarnerMedia to Discovery, and the combined companies will exist as “Warner Bros. Discovery” in the near future.)

Jared Leto as a heavily tattooed Joker
For Jared Leto’s Joker, releasing the #AyerCut would actually be a normal method of film distribution.

Both Leto and Ayer have said there is more to the 2016 than has been publicly seen for years. In 2017, Leto told IGN that “There were so many scenes that got cut from the movie, I couldn’t even start. I think that the Joker … we did a lot of experimentation on the set, we explored a lot. There’s so much that we shot that’s not in the film.”

Just as he did in 2021, Ayer followed up Leto’s quotes with affirmation, posting a letter to Twitter saying he wished he had a “time machine” to create a “more grounded story.” However, he noted that “no, there isn’t a secret edit of the film with a bunch of Joker scenes hidden in a salt mine somewhere.”

A lot has changed in the superhero game since 2017. Specifically, one very big change: this year’s fan-demanded release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The long march from hashtags to the actual release of a second, four-hour version of Justice League more in line with Snyder’s original vision than the revisions Joss Whedon made on set surely captured the imaginations of Ayer and Leto, not to mention fans with dreams similar to the Snyder die-hards. An added moment in the re-edit involving Leto’s Joker only fanned the fire.

Curiosity about the Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which Warner Bros. reportedly invested $70 million into completing, made the movie a PR success. Although official numbers are hard to come by, in May 2021 a WarnerMedia press release called the movie a “hit [HBO]Max Original.” That said, it was not a runaway success, or the second coming of the DC Snyderverse; third-party streaming analytics company Samba TV reported that the movie trailed other major releases that also opened in theaters, which may have led to decreased viewing on the platform. Three weekends after release, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was viewed by a reported 3.2 million households, falling behind Mortal Kombat (5.5 million viewers), Godzilla vs. Kong (5.1 million), The Suicide Squad (4.7 million, Wonder Woman 1984 (3.9 million) in the same window.

But the social media success of the #SnyderCut has clearly inspired Ayer, who used the release of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad to post another letter, saying that he had put his “life into Suicide Squad” and that the released 2016 movie “is not my movie. Read that again. And my cut is not the 10 week director’s cut — It’s a fully mature edit.” Ayer went on to praise Gunn’s reboot, which itself suffered from paltry numbers at the box office.

Those numbers might make WarnerMedia executives wonder if there truly is enough hype around an #AyerCut to bring a new, un-rebooted version of the Suicide Squad into existence. The original Justice League, while a critical flop, was technically a financial success, earning $656 million worldwide, giving the studio a reason to continue with plans for standalone Aquaman and Flash movies, and Wonder Woman’s standalone franchise. Suicide Squad did even better, earning $745 million worldwide, but attempts to steer the franchise to critical acclaim backfired, between The Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey. Ayer seems to think going back to where it all started is the solution.

The 20,000 or so followers at @CutAyer and the near-25,000 followers at @RTAyerCutSS, have jumped on Leto’s comments, but based on the many attempts to do something with the series, the general public has so far been tepid on the idea of a gang of villains getting tiny bombs implanted into their heads so they are forced to become unlikely heroes.

So far, stars affiliated with both Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad have been generally supportive. Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman and John Cena have all expressed varying levels of enthusiasm for the #AyerCut project, with Robbie calling a second release a “very complicated situation” that she would “want to see,” and Kinnaman saying that “you always want to see the director’s vision.”

If the #AyerCut is just wishful thinking or an actual movement on par with #SnyderCut, the jury’s still out. But there’s definitely a hashtag.

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