So, how are filmmakers reacting to the news that Warner Bros. will be releasing all of next year’s movies on HBO Max at the same time that they’re released in theaters? Not too well, according to a story published yesterday in The Hollywood Reporter.
While the story includes plenty of anonymous commentary (mostly from agents), the most incendiary quote comes in a statement provided by director Christopher Nolan, in which he called the recently-launched HBO Max “the worst streaming service”:
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. Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. 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.
On one level, Nolan’s comments aren’t too surprising, since he’s been one of Hollywood’s staunchest advocates for the theatrical movie experience. But Nolan’s words are remarkably direct and incendiary a director who’s generally reserved in his public comments — yes, he once criticized Netflix for its “bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films,” but he later apologized for being “undiplomatic.”
And in this case, Nolan isn’t just criticizing a rival studio. He’s taking aim at the company that’s distributed nearly all of his films, including this year’s “Tenet” (a movie whose disappointing box office performance, particularly in the U.S., likely prompted the studios to delay their big releases yet again, and to consider streaming distribution more seriously).
While Nolan was one of the few people willing to criticize Warner’s decision on-the-record, The Hollywood Reporter suggests that the producers, directors and stars behind next year’s Warner Bros. slate were all blindsided by the announcement.
One particular concern is financial compensation, with deals usually tied to a film’s performance in the theatrical box office. The filmmakers and star of “Wonder Woman 1984” will reportedly receive “tens of millions” for bringing their film to HBO Max, but the talent behind Warner’s other movies might not be compensated at the same level.
And there could even be legal repercussions. Variety is reporting that Legendary Entertainment, the production company that co-financed next year’s Warner releases “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” is considering suing the studio over its plans.