Fallout continues over WarnerMedia’s historic announcement that Warner Bros.’ full slate of 2021 pictures will stream on HBO Max on the same day they will open in theaters. The WB blockbusters will have a one-month streaming period before being removed from the service, with pictures staying in theaters to play to big-screen audiences. But Legendary Entertainment, which bankrolled a significant portion of the production costs on both Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and the massive monster face off Godzilla vs. Kong, isn’t thrilled with this agreement and could be contemplating legal action.
The idea is floated in an industry conversation between Peter Bart and Mike Fleming on Deadline. The two reporters usually go back and forth on a massive topic, and the Warner Bros. decision to unleash a full year of programming to its streaming service, HBO Max, certainly qualifies. Speaking on Legendary Entertainment’s possible legal recourse against Warner Bros., Fleming states:
I’m hearing that Legendary Entertainment either has or will send legal letters to Warner Bros as soon as today, challenging the decision to put the Denis Villenueve-directed Dune into the HBO Max deal, and maybe Godzilla Vs. Kong as well. … Sources said Legendary had no advance notice before last week’s announcement that both Dune and Godzilla Vs. Kong were part of the HBO Max plan.
Peter Bart and Mike Fleming believe that Legendary likely has some legal legs to stand on. The argument potentially swirls around the idea that after having put up nearly 75% of the production budget on Dune, and a similar percentage of funding on Godzilla Vs. Kong, Legendary could feel that that the long-term viability of these two franchises as theatrical draws could be “tarnished” if they start their life on a streaming service. In Legendary’s eyes, both the Godzilla and King Kong franchises could and should be packing audiences into movie theaters for years to come, while Dune -- if done properly -- could bolster a six-film franchise.
Warner Bros. is about to test-drive the validity of this new distribution system in a few weeks. Patty Jenkins’ highly-anticipated superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first blockbuster introduced under the new model, arriving in select theaters and on HBO Max on December 25 in the United States. Obviously, Warner and DC Films believe in the long-term viability of Diana Prince as a character, and have no intention of tarnishing that franchise’s earning potential, so Legendary Entertainment likely will be paying very close attention to how the Wonder Woman sequel is received.
So far, reviews on Wonder Woman 1984 have been strong:
It’s a little strange for Legendary to be balking at the possibility of their big-screen blockbusters having to start life on a streaming service. If you recall, Legendary reportedly was negotiating a deal with Netflix that would have pulled Godzilla Vs. Kong from WarnerMedia for the whopping price of $250 million, but WB wouldn’t let it go through. Likely, they realized just him valuable the monster franchise is to a package that lures potential subscribers to HBO Max.
For now, this feels like a legal volley because Legendary Entertainment was upset about being kept out of the loop on WarnerMedia’s decision to move product to HBO Max. But we will continue to track any developments on the story, so keep it here on CinemaBlend.