Late last year, WarnerMedia announced that all their upcoming movies will stream on HBO Max at the same time as their theatrical release. Since then, a number of notable filmmakers, from Christopher Nolan to Denis Villeneuve have openly and bitterly criticized the studio for diluting the theatrical experience. In a recent interview, The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan also expressed his displeasure over Warner’s move.
“You only have to guess what my reaction is to that. I don’t support it at all. At all. And especially without talking to the filmmakers. Ridiculous. [It’s] obviously corporate-driven and I feel bad for all my colleagues that found out that way and are dealing with it now. That’s not the answer. That’s certainly not the answer, and I very much hope we will all be going back to the theaters soon-ish. Three months, four months, five months, whatever it is. And that both can co-exist; that we have high-end entertainment at home and we have high-end entertainment when we want to go out. There’s no need to cannibalize one for the other.”
WarnerMedia has defended their position by pointing out that theaters are unlikely to get back to regular capacity until the end of 2021. With the new arrangement, movies will continue to open in theaters while those who want to see the films at home can also do so.
A particular sore point for filmmakers, as Shyamalan points out, is that Warner took such a major step without first consulting their creative partners. Judd Apatow made similar remarks against the studio earlier where he had deemed their behavior “disrespectful” to the other people involved in the fate of their films.
“It’s somewhat shocking that a studio for their entire slate could call what appears to be nobody. It’s the type of disrespect that you hear about in the history of show business. But to do that to just every single person that you work with is really somewhat stunning. It creates a financial nightmare, because most people are paid residuals – they’re paid back-end points. What they get out of it for years and years of hard work is usually based on the success of their films. And so now what does it mean to have a movie go straight to streaming? How do they decide what to pay you? Do you even have a contract that allows you to negotiate, or is it really just up to them at this point? It raises thousands of questions, which I’m sure are very complicated.”
There are rumors that Warner plans to appease the filmmakers working for them by sending out huge payouts to all the parties involved, regardless of whether a movie does well at the box office or not. This is a temporary solution at most, and it remains to be seen how long Warner manages to keep with its new release strategy without driving talent away. This news was first reported at Fandom.com.