In case you haven’t heard, Warner Bros. has changed everything. The mega-studio announced that their entire theatrical film slate, starting with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day 2020 and moving throughout their 2021 schedule, will debut simultaneously streaming on HBO Max. This decision, which blindsided the entire industry, has provoked strong reactions from folks like the head of AMC Theaters, Steven Soderbergh, and our own Matt Goldberg. But what of Warner Bros.‘ golden boy, the Dark Knight architect, Mr. Christopher Nolan? His own Tenet unfortunately proved that 2020 wasn’t ready for a wide-release theatrical blockbuster in, y’know, a dang pandemic. But what does he think of WB‘s reactionary move? Nolan talked about it during an Entertainment Tonight interview, and as you might expect, he did not mince words.
Nolan said that he had “disbelief” at the news, “especially the way in which they” announced it. He went on to explain their lack of transparency and communication:
“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. 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.”
Dang, Nolan, don’t hurt ’em! My man is biting the hand that feeds him, calling HBO Max a “fledgling streaming service” and casting aside this industry-disrupting move a “loss-leader,” and straight up telling his bosses at Warner Bros. that they have behaved immorally and disrespectfully. Nolan went on to explain his perceived shortsightedness of WB‘s decision, especially given the long-term (and maybe even more short-term than we think) solving of the pandemic with vaccines and competent government decisions:
“Long-term, 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.”
How will Warner Bros. react to this? Will they give a stern talking-to to their golden goose? Will they listen to Nolan’s points on a short-term “put out the fire” solution not making sense in a fireless near-future? Or is Nolan more optimistic than the rest of the world about piling into a movie theater? We shall find out soon… or, if you want to use his Tenet rules, we’ve already found out and have a hot thinkpiece for you to read about it here.