Director Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “Dunkirk,” “The Dark Knight”) severely criticized Warner Bros. for deciding to release the studio’s entire 2021 slate of movies simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max.
Speaking with ET Online Monday, the man who transformed comic book movies into a whole new artform claimed Warner Bros. made its decision in the dark of night with no consultation from filmmakers or other artists.
“There’s such controversy around it, because they didn’t tell anyone,” said Nolan. “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.”
“In 2021, they’ve got some of the top filmmakers in the world, they’ve got some of the biggest stars in the world who worked for years in some cases on these projects very close to their hearts that are meant to be big-screen experiences,” he added. “They’re meant to be out there for the widest possible audiences… and now they’re being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service — for the fledgling streaming service — without any consultation.”
The COVID-19 pandemic essentially killed the movie box office, deeply affecting filmmakers, including such titans as Nolan, whose movie “Tenet” grossed just $57 million in the North American box office and $300 million worldwide.
The marquee director is far from the only talent in Hollywood to voice disapproval of Warner Bros. recent decision. According to Variety, executives have expressed worry behind closed doors about how the move could harm filmmaking as an art form.
“There’s no question that WarnerMedia is leveraging this pandemic moment, and making a decision for the future of their company by prioritizing streaming. The question is, at what cost to this art form?” one executive told the outlet.
Another executive said that Warner Bros. essentially “parted with easily $2 billion in assets, gift-wrapped for HBO Max, that will see absolutely no return.”
Theater owners have aggressively stated they will fight Warner Bros. and any other studio that decides to go with a streaming service.
“The year-long part was a little befuddling,” said theater owner Mark O’Meara of Fairfax, Virginia. “They’re claiming it’s a COVID model. I think there’s some truth to that. But theaters are closing, and it’s getting tougher.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get back to three months,” he added.
AMC’s CEO Adam Aron said that the industry will “aggressively” pursue economic means to defend their business model.
“Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start-up,” Aron said. “As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.”
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