Warner Bros. did not tell directors and creative partners about their 2021 HBO Max plans over a fear of leaks. The entertainment industry was shocked to learn that Warner Bros. was going to premiere their 2021 movies in theaters and HBO Max simultaneously. Directors and studios learned about the new hybrid release schedule along with the rest of the world, which did not sit well with a number of people, including Tenet director Christopher Nolan and Dune director Denis Villeneuve.
According to a new report about the Warner Bros. situation, the secrecy was done on purpose. WarnerMedia chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff recently spoke about the decision. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Sarnoff says the studio announced the 2021 strategy before talking with its partners because they feared the news would leak. 'I wish we could have had more time to speak to our partners and talent,' she says. 'We are very conscious of paying a fair price for the HBO Max 31-day distribution of the movie, and we think they'll be happy to see how much effort we will put behind successfully launching these movies.'" Christopher Nolan, who has a long relationship with Warner Bros., was one of the first to speak about the deal publicly.
The public health crisis has largely destroyed the moviegoing experience for the foreseeable future. Theaters are being forced to close and, for the most part, no new movies are on the way. In a recent interview, Christopher Nolan talked openly about Warner Bros.' new hybrid model. "It's about what the French call droit moral. Do they own [the film] absolutely, because they paid for it or they financed it? And that is not a purely legalistic question; it's a question of ethics as well," says Nolan. "It's a question of partnership and collaboration. They did not speak to those filmmakers. They did not consult them about what their plans were for their work. And I felt that somebody needed to point out that that wasn't the right way to treat those filmmakers." Since Nolan came forward, several other directors have come out to share their side of the story.
Like all of the other directors who have worked with Warner Bros., Dune director Denis Villeneuve learned about the new system when the news broke. "There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here," Villeneuve said in a statement. "It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion." The director goes on to point out that "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." HBO Max is all over the news, thanks to the announcement. The studio will be trying the new model out on Christmas Day when they release Wonder Woman 1984 in select theaters and on HBO Max.
Legendary, who worked with Warner Bros. on Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong, is said to be preparing legal action over the new release schedule. Legendary fears that the situation will ultimately damage "the long term viability of the franchises," which is something that Denis Villeneuve has also point out when discussing the second installment of Dune. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to reveal that Warner Bros. feared leaks when announcing their 2021 release schedule.