When Warner Bros. announced that it would be bringing its entire slate of 2021 films to HBO Max day and date with their theatrical release, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated such a strong backlash from Hollywood figures. Whatever shred of hope you had left after 2020 is probably gone now because both acclaimed director Christopher Nolan and distributor Legendary Entertainment are putting WB on blast for daring to give users an option in how they view entertainment.
The first bit came of backlash from an ET Online interview last night with Nolan. To him, “There’s such controversy around it, because they didn’t tell anyone.” While he initially makes a point about the actors and crew working many years to create big-budget entertainment, he then loses his point by saying that these films “are meant to be big-screen experiences.” Tell that to the smaller communities that don’t even get a chance to see most major films.
Legendary, though, is taking things to a different level. In a report from Variety, it states that Legendary is currently in talks with WB to work some kind of deal out, but may take the company to court should its needs not be satisfied. That’s right, Legendary may potentially sue because WB is putting movies on a streaming service. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
The biggest reason for Legendary’s rash decision is that it funded a large part of both Dune and Godzilla Vs. Kong. Both films are in excess of $160 million, so releasing them directly to HBO Max without any theatrical run could impact the earnings of both pictures. As Variety suggests, WB may end up buying the rights to both films outright, though that may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Regardless of what actually happens, it seems that distributors and financiers are going to fight tooth and nail to restore the theater industry to its former glory. With COVID-19 only surging and other films from 2020 showing strong growth on digital platforms, they may just be fighting a losing battle.