Christopher Nolan at AFI Fest 2017 in Hollywood, California.
Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images for AFI
Tenet director Christopher Nolan has condemned WarnerMedia’s stunning announcement that it will release its entire 2021 slate of films on HBO Max the same day they open in theaters.
“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,” Nolan said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
“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.”
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Nolan has had a long-running working relationship with Warner Bros., starting in 2005 with Batman Begins and continuing right through to his latest film Tenet.
But the sci-fi action thriller, the first Hollywood tent-pole to open in theaters in September after the pandemic shutdown, failed to break even, reportedly losing Warner Bros. as much as $100 million.
WarnerMedia’s decision last week marked the latest in a series of titanic changes in movie releases, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Studios and cinemas have been experimenting with new release strategies that would’ve been inconceivable a year ago, especially for expensive films like Wonder Woman, Dune and The Matrix.
But Warner Bros.’ decision to release an entire year of its film slate online at the same time as in theaters is the most seismic shift yet.
As for HBO Max, the streamer didn’t exactly set the streaming world alight when it debuted in May, reportedly drawing 8 million subscribers by the end of September. By comparison, Disney Plus, with its Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars content, racked up 10 million subscribers within its first day live. It reportedly had 73 million by September.
Nolan has been vocal with his reaction to Warner Bros.’ decision, giving his indictment in an interview with ET.
“Oh, I mean, disbelief,” he said, describing his response. “Especially the way in which they did. 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.”
WarnerMedia and Nolan didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
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