Christopher Nolan slammed Warner Bros for its decision to release its 2021 slate of films simultaneously in theatres and the streaming service HBO Max on the same day and date.
Calling the decision “a real bait and switch”, Nolan told Entertainment Tonight that Warner Bros used “the pandemic as an excuse for sort of grappling for short-term advantage”.
Warner Bros executives had previously told Variety that the decision to make films available to audiences unwilling to step out of their homes and visit theatres because of the coronavirus pandemic is a “temporary solution in response to the ongoing global heath crisis”.
The titles getting the twin-release treatment include potential moneyspinners such as The Matrix 4, Wonder Woman 1984, Dune, Godzilla vs Kong, and The Suicide Squad.
In India, where HBO Max is not yet available, Wonder Woman 1984 will be released in cinemas on December 24.
The Tenet director said that by sending films meant for theatrical releases to HBO Max without consulting their makers, “they being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service – for the fledgling streaming service”. Tenet was released by Warner Bros in theatres, most recently in India on December 4.
In a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan doubled down on his criticism. “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,” Nolan said.
Nolan and the Hollywood studio go back 18 years, having worked on Insomnia (2002), The Prestige (2006), The Batman trilogy, Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014) and Dunkirk (2017). These films were major money-spinners for Warner Bros, making Nolan one of the leading blockbuster filmmakers of all time. However Tenet, which was released during the pandemic, reportedly made less-than-satisfactory earnings of a little more than $350 million on a $200 million budget.
According to Nolan, Warner Bros’s decision “makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction”.
Other than Nolan, the studio’s creative collaborators and business partners are miffed with the decision and may go to court, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Many in Hollywood think WarnerMedia opted for this drastic move to play to streaming-infatuated Wall Street and redo the botched launch of HBO Max, which has netted a dismal 8.6 million ‘activated’ subscribers so far,” the magazine noted. “Industry veterans say Warners is sacrificing the huge profit that comes from selling movies in multiple formats and on multiple platforms around the world”.