Christopher Nolan has throttled Warner Bros over plans to release their 2021 blockbusters direct to streaming network HBO Max.
Out promoting the home ent release of his film “Tenet” this week, the famed filmmaker – and champion of all things ‘theatrical’- said the decision to release films like “The Matrix 4” and “Dune” on a streaming platform the same time as they hit theaters is a poor move.
“Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service,” said Nolan.
Nolan’s film “Tenet”, a WB film, was released in theaters, during the middle of a pandemic, and came away with making 32% less than his other films as a result. Some might say Warner are right in going this new route.
Warner Media chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff told CNBC that “Tenet” is the reason why the studio opted to go for a concurrent digital and theater bow on all of their upcoming 2021 titles.
“We learned a lot about the inclination of people to go to theaters when they’re open, obviously,” Sarnoff said about the “Tenet” release, noting the film’s international grosses were far stronger in markets where theaters were more open. “What we learned through ‘Tenet’ is that the U.S. is not quite ready yet to fully reopen and have full engagement of fans back into theaters, hence this new strategy.”
“We have movies which are ready to go and they’ve been sitting on shelves,” Sarnoff said. “We thought this was the most creative and win-win situation to bring them out not only in theaters, but simultaneously for 31 days on HBO max so that people who don’t have access to theaters in the U.S. are able to see the movies and we’re able to market them more fully.”
The “Batman Begins” filmmaker said Warner Bros were destroying a good arrangement between theaters and streamers “They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”
Most of the filmmakers and actors involved in the films Warner Bros have decided to release concurrently on HBO Max next year didn’t even get the heads up on the new arrangement.
“…now they’re being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service — for the fledgling streaming service — without any consultation. So, there’s a lot of controversy. It’s very, very, very, very messy. A real bait and switch. Yeah, it’s sort of not how you treat filmmakers and stars and people who, these guys have given a lot for these projects. They deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work.”
Theaters won’t die, says Nolan, but Warners aren’t helping matters.
“I think all of the studios know that the movie theater experience will bounce back and be a very important part of the ecosystem long-term. What you have right now in our business is a lot of the use of the pandemic as an excuse for sort of grappling for short-term advantage. And it’s really unfortunate. It’s not the way to do business and it’s not the best thing for the health of our industry. But when the theaters are back and people are going back to the movies, when the vaccine has been rolled out and there’s an appropriate health response from the federal government, I’m very bullish on the long-term prospects of the industry. People love going to the movies and they’re going to get to go again.”
The first film to go day-and-date digital and theatrical over at WB is “Wonder Woman 1984”, which is released on Christmas day.
According to The New York Times, star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins were paid $10million dollars as part of the new release plans.
Other talent from films in the newly minuted HBO Max arrangement, including Denzel Washington, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Jackman and Angelina Jolie, were not paid off or consulted.
Legendary Studios, producers of “Dune” and Godzilla vs. Kong”, were also kept in the dark as to WB’s plans-they’re not happy and they’re going after the studio legally now. The prod co were hoping their films would get an exclusive big screen bow, and rightly so, but most of all are annoyed that they only got a 30-minute heads up on the announcement that that would no longer be happening.