The decision to send Warner Bros’ entire 2021 slate of films to HBO Max, in simultaneous release with traditional theatrical distribution, was always going to draw detractors from certain corners. As if the recent roasting of the announcement by some of the studio’s producing partners, as well as loyal collaborator Christopher Nolan, weren’t enough, a new wave of responses has apparently hit the desk at the WB lot. And as one might have expected, the Directors Guild of America’s contribution to the subject was not only honest, it was disapproving as well.
Sources close to the goings on between the DGA and Warner Bros spoke with THR, noting that a “strongly worded letter” was sent to the studio on behalf of the professional guild. The letter was delivered to Warner Bros CEO Ann Sarnoff, and according to the reporting on this still-secret letter, a meeting has been requested between the WB brass and the Directors Guild of America in order to talk out this grand plan. So there’s a chance that this letter might be a little kinder than the lambasting Mr. Nolan gave his studio partner in his own volley of words.
This particular story’s intrigue only grows after mention of a much earlier get-together addressing the value of films potentially shifting to HBO Max. As early as last November, Warner Bros had a meeting to discuss the strategic usage of the studio’s theatrical titles as HBO Max Originals. With that possibility in the air, pre-pandemic, the following decision was apparently made and cited by the DGA in its letter:
…theatrical films moved to the streaming platform would be valued according to the prices they would command on the open market.
You can start to see why production companies like Legendary would be all the more upset that Godzilla vs. Kong and Dune would be listed as HBO Max exclusives, allegedly without their say so. With the former title allegedly commanding at least a $200 million bid from Netflix to go streaming being dismissed by Warner Bros in the name of a “theatrical release,” this sort reversal looks like a glass of water to the face. At the very least, it comes across as bad form.
As the Directors Guild of America has now requested further meetings to discuss and iron out this issue, it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. This is especially true with the fact that awards season is looming, and the negotiations between Warner Bros and a key voting bloc on the road to the Oscars could mean their chances of prestige glory will be affected by the outcome. With Christopher Nolan’s reaction being as piping hot as it is, who knows what the rest of the DGA’s thoughts are.
Wonder Woman 1984 will still hit theaters as planned, with the Patty Jenkins/Gal Gadot blockbuster hitting international theaters on December 16th. However, the great HBO Max experiment begins with the simultaneous domestic release into theaters and streaming on Christmas Day. And as always, should further developments break on this story, you can count on CinemaBlend to report them as they occur.