Christopher Nolan, who was doing consumer press interviews today for the DVD release of Tenet, was asked about that movie’s film studio, Warner Bros., and their recent radical windows plan to drop their entire 2021 slate both in theaters and on their struggling frosh streaming service HBO Max at the same time. It was a move last Thursday that blindsided both film co-financiers and talent, leaving them irate.
“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,” said Nolan in a statement, kicking HBO Max in the teeth.
Warners and exhibition rushed to reopen movie theaters during the pandemic for Tenet. Some industry sources believed the move was premature during the pandemic, especially with box office capital New York and LA closed, as well as other markets, with the $200M spy noir thriller seeing lackluster global results of $360M, 32% less than Nolan’s previous WWII feature Dunkirk. The theory has been floated by many distribution heads of late that if we didn’t rush to reopen theaters for Tenet than perhaps this HBO Max deal wouldn’t have been floated.
Nolan said that the Burbank, CA lot was “dismantling” an ideal distribution system between theaters and homes “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.”
Speaking to ET Online at the Tenet DVD presser, Nolan expressed his shock over how Warner Bros didn’t even give top-tier talent and filmmakers a heads up that the HBO Max/theatrical plan was in the works. The 2021 slate per Nolan “is 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. So, there’s a lot of controversy. 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.”
Despite Warner Bros upside-down plans, which could very well spell doom to movie theaters as they’re poised to compete with a $20/month streaming service, Nolan told ET that he believes the theatrical experience will return in the long-term.
Said Nolan, “I think all of the studios know that the movie theater experience will bounce back and be a very important part of the ecosystem long-term. What you have right now in our business is a lot of the use of the pandemic as an excuse for sort of grappling for short-term advantage. And it’s really unfortunate. It’s not the way to do business and it’s not the best thing for the health of our industry. But when the theaters are back and people are going back to the movies, when the vaccine has been rolled out and there’s an appropriate health response from the federal government, I’m very bullish on the long-term prospects of the industry. People love going to the movies and they’re going to get to go again.”
WarnerMedia had no comment in response to Nolan’s remarks tonight.