December 3, 2020 was a day producers, directors, stars, along with their reps, woke up to find their movies going straight to HBO Max. As filmmaker Christopher Nolan put it, “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.” It was the day that WarnerMedia announced that their 17-film slate for this year, which included tentpoles like The Suicide Squad, Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong, would be on HBO Max for a one-month window that began the same day as the film’s theatrical release.
Yesterday, at the Vox Media’s Code Conference, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said he rushed the decision to place Warner Bros.’ 2021 film slate on HBO Max and should’ve taken “the better part of a month” to speak with the more than 170 individuals impacted by the day-and-date shift.
“I will be the first one to say, and the responsibility rests on my shoulders, that, in hindsight, we should have taken the better part of a month to have over 170 conversations, which is the number of participants that are in our 2021 film slate. We tried to do that in a compressed period of time, less than a week, because of course there was going to be leaks there was going to be everybody opining on whether we should do this or not do this.”
In the midst of Warner trying to make right a situation that cost 170 filmmakers millions, Christopher Nolan opined “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.”
As it all came crashing down for the filmmakers, Patty Jenkins spoke out, “I don’t know why we are talking about taking (exclusive theatrical windows) away. One studio should plant a flag and make a huge commitment to the theatrical experience and the filmmakers will go there.”
The director described the news as “heartbreaking” when she found out that Wonder Woman 1984 would be a casualty of the day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max last December, admitting that at the time it was “the best choice of a bunch of very bad choices. …. It was a very, very difficult choice. It was such a dark time.” The financial impact it had was staggering, as its December debut, Wonder Woman 1984 grossed $166 million worldwide amid the pandemic, while 2017’s Wonder Woman grossed $821 million.
Kilar concluded, “We said from the start that we were going to treat every single film as a blockbuster, from an economic perspective, for participants, that we were going to be fair and generous, we were going to do the right thing. The good news is we did, and we worked our tail ends off to do that. And we’re now in a very good situation.” As for making things right financially for those 170 individuals, the cost of the the decision would put them “north of $18 [billion] both this year and next year.” This news comes from The Hollywood Reporter.