When Warner Brothers made the shocking announcement last week that it was making its entire 2021 slate of sixteen films available at no additional charge on HBO Max, in addition to theatrical releases, most of the reaction dealt with what it meant for moviegoers, as well as whether the move would mean the end of movie theaters.
Now, it turns out another group of stakeholders is not so happy about the move: A-list filmmakers. Most significantly, director Christopher Nolan, who was famously insistent earlier this year that his Warner film, “Tenet,” receive a theatrical release.
Nolan, who also directed the “Dark Knight” trilogy, “Inception,” and “Dunkirk,” gave an interview this week to promote the upcoming digital release of “Tenet,” and perhaps unsurprisingly, the recent move by Warner came up. Nolan has made most of the movies in his career for the Warner Brothers studio.
“Oh, I mean, disbelief. Especially the way in which they did,” Nolan said of Warner’s move in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “There’s such controversy around it, because they didn’t tell anyone. 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. 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. So, there’s a lot of controversy. It’s very, very, very, very messy. A real bait and switch.”
Nolan, a noted proponent of the movie theater experience, also expressed hope that the movie theaters would “bounce back” soon.
The director was even harsher in a prepared statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
“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 hasn’t announced that he’s severing his relationship with Warner Brothers, but the comments would seen to indicate that he’s burned that bridge.
The Hollywood Reporter story also quoted an agent, who stated that WarnerMedia “has made a grave mistake.”
That wasn’t the only angry backlash against the HBO Max move on Monday. Variety reported that Legendary Entertainment, the production company that financed a large percentage of two of those 2021 films, “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” is threatening legal action against Warner Brothers, claiming that they were kept “out of the loop” on the decision. No lawsuit has been filed yet, but Legendary is “hoping to first negotiate a more generous deal, but isn’t taking legal action off the table.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.