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The Ongoing Fallout From Warner’s HBO Max Announcement

Warner’s move has opened up a nasty can of (sand) worms.

Zendaya Timothee Chalamet Dune
Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet star in 2021's "Dune", directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Ever since Warner Brothers made the announcement that every single one of their 2021 theatrical film releases will see a simultaneous release on their streaming service HBO Max, the internet has been in flames. For good reason, might I add – this decision has huge implications for both streamers and theaters moving forward.

So far, the reaction to the news has been … mixed. Many fans were excited at the prospect of a year with more than 5 major film releases, and happy that they’ll have access to these movies. Even if they feel unsafe going to theaters, or live somewhere where theaters take a particularly long time to open, fans can still watch these blockbusters.

One person who isn’t particularly happy with this announcement was Christopher Nolan. Nolan, who has released all but two of his films through Warner Brothers, called the announcement a “bait and switch” and said that the decision was mistreating the creatives behind the films. Of course, Nolan is a more traditional director, and very defensive of the theatrical experience. “Tenet” is one of a small handful of films to release post-lockdown, partially due to Nolan’s insistence.

Another area that might cause a ruckus here is when looking at the finances. Theaters are obviously not at all happy about this decision, and they’re already in hot water financially. Additionally, the film production and financing company Legendary Pictures may end up suing Warner Brothers. Legendary provided a majority of the funding for “Godzilla v. Kong” and “Dune,” and the company is reportedly furious over the inevitable diminished returns these movies will see as a result of the move.

In addition to big companies, some individual stars are going to be affected by this deal. With large films like the ones Warner distributes, the highest-level creatives and actors sometimes end up negotiating profit participation – a smaller up-front salary in exchange for a slice of the film’s profits. Reportedly, “Wonder Woman 1984” director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot were both originally set up for profit participation, only to negotiate deals over $10 million with Warner to approve the move to HBO Max.

Warner Brothers may have opened up a can of worms with this decision. The fallout from it will affect the film industry for weeks, months, and years to come. There will almost certainly be long legal battles, lots of hurt feelings in Hollywood, and a potential sea change in the industry many have seen on the horizon for years. Whether the move brings along the death of the theater like some claim, or simply an accommodation for a pandemic-safe short-term future, this certainly isn’t the last time we’ll hear about this deal.

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