Christopher Nolan is criticizing WarnerMedia as talent and their reps feel blindsided by its HBO Max streaming announcement.
“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,” filmmaker Christopher Nolan, whose relationship with Warners dates back to Insomnia in 2002, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
Added Nolan: “Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it 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.”
According to a source, Emmerich tried to soothe In the Heights director Jon M. Chu by pointing out that the movie was still getting a “global theatrical release.” But industry insiders say the studio is pretending that pirates won’t pounce as soon as these films are streaming on HBO Max. As soon as one does, there's an “excellent version of the movie everywhere immediately,” notes one industry veteran.
WarnerMedia’s decision to attack without warning may be understandable given the blowback that was foreseeable. But to many insiders, blindsiding talent and their reps seemed like an insult. Sources say studio president Courtenay Valenti was the only Warner exec who dared to speak up about the need to reach out to key creative partners, but she was quickly hushed.
Much of this outrage will surely be mitigated if WarnerMedia is prepared to write big checks to all the profit participants in the films that have been moved. “It’s a critical time for them, at the highest level, to make this right with the talent,” says one rep. But agents say the guidance that’s been provided so far suggests that the company isn’t planning to offer what is now called "Wonder Woman money," in honor of the rich deal the studio gave profit participants in Wonder Woman 1984 when that film was moved to HBO Max.
WarnerMedia had to shovel tens of millions at Gal Godot and the other key players because the company wants a third in the series. But that sets the bar high. Sources say even Suicide Squad director James Gunn, who is platform-agnostic, was not pleased when the studio followed its shocking announcement by floating a lackluster formula for compensating him and other profit participants in the film.
At minimum, WarnerMedia has opened the door to arduous negotiations with the major agencies over compensation for multiple profit participants in 17 movies. Did the Warners numbers crunchers, in projecting the cost of premiering its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max, factor in the cost of widely anticipated legal challenges? Industry insiders believe WarnerMedia may have opened itself up to those, especially as it is selling the movies to its own streaming platform when none of the profit participants has had a chance to figure out what Apple or Netflix might have paid for the opportunity to stream their projects day-and-date. Allegations of self-dealing are almost sure to follow.
Many think Legendary will be the first to file a legal challenge. The company fired off a previous lawyer letter after Netflix offered something north of $225 million for the rights to Godzilla vs. Kong, which has seen its release date moved from March 2020 to November to May 2021. Though Legendary financed 75 percent of the movie, Warners had the power to block the sale and did. Legendary asked whether the studio would then give it a deal to stream the movie on HBO Max — and got no clear answer until its executives woke up one December morning to find that the movie was going day-and-date on the service without the benefit of a negotiation. Legendary’s even more expensive picture, Dune, is getting the same treatment. The other companies that finance Warners movies, Village Roadshow and Bron, are also said to be aggrieved parties that might end up going to court.
Sounds like quite the shitshow is about to unfold.