Warner Bros. have well and truly opened a can of worms with their decision to send all of their 2021 movies to HBO Max the same day they hit theaters. As well as signalling a potentially seismic shift in the landscape of cinema, the studio have invited widespread criticism from both their business partners and the talent involved in next year’s slate.
Not only are box office takings going to plummet dramatically now that millions of people will be able to watch some of 2021’s biggest titles from the comfort of their own homes, but the threat of piracy has increased exponentially, and anyone who thinks that HD copies of the movies won’t be widely circulated online from day one are only kidding themselves.
Furthermore, Legendary Pictures are said to be considering legal action after they were cut out of the loop entirely when it comes to Godzilla vs. Kong and Dune, with the company reportedly being blocked from selling the MonsterVerse sequel to Netflix for $250 million, only for WarnerMedia to announce shortly after that it was heading to their streaming service without offering anything close to a similar financial incentive.
Dune director Denis Villeneuve, meanwhile, has now penned a scathing article on the matter, and the filmmaker doesn’t hold back when it comes to making his opinions perfectly clear, as you can read in the excerpt below.
“I learned in the news that Warner Bros. has decided to release Dune on HBO Max at the same time as our theatrical release, using prominent images from our movie to promote their streaming service. With this decision AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history. There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here. It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion.
Therefore, even though Dune is about cinema and audiences, AT&T is about its own survival on Wall Street. With HBO Max’s launch a failure thus far, AT&T decided to sacrifice Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 slate in a desperate attempt to grab the audience’s attention. Warner Bros.’ sudden reversal from being a legacy home for filmmakers to the new era of complete disregard draws a clear line for me. Filmmaking is a collaboration, reliant on the mutual trust of team work and Warner Bros. has declared they are no longer on the same team.”
There’ve been reports that many A-list talents aren’t happy about the decision, either, especially when they discovered that Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot had been briefed weeks in advance about the DCEU blockbuster going to HBO Max and received a hefty bonus, while everyone else was given just a 90 minutes heads-up.