Christopher Nolan Calls Deal Between Warner Bros. and HBO Max 'a Real Bait and Switch' (UPDATE)

Christopher Nolan reacted to the Warner Bros./HBO Max deal that will see WB simultaneously release their films on big screens and the streaming service.

Christopher Nolan

Image via Getty/Matt Winkelmeyer

Christopher Nolan

UPDATED 12/7, 9:50 p.m. ET: Christopher Nolan also released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter slamming HBO Max's deal with Warner Bros.

"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.

The filmmaker continued, "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."

See original story below.

In a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, Christopher Nolan gave his thoughts on the recent announcement that Warner Bros. would be simultaneously releasing their entire 2021 slate in both theaters and on the HBO Max streaming platform.

If you missed this massive (but maybe expected?) shock to the theater industry, then peep this very brief explainer we wrote just four days ago when the news hit:

In short, HBO Max users will be given an exclusive one-month access period to the releases. After that, each release will leave the streamer while continuing its theatrical run.

As one might expect Nolan, whose latest film (Tenet) had concerned parties crossing their fingers for it to be a savior for the cinema industry, was not pleased with the announcement. He told ET that it left him in "disbelief," while sharing his dissatisfaction that the creative forces behind the movies weren't consulted (or even tipped off) about the now-completed business deal. 

Nolan's answer came after the following was put forth by the outlet: "We're now seeing a massive movie like Wonder Woman 1984 simultaneously debut in theaters and on HBO Max, and Warner Bros. announced it will do the same for their entire theatrical slate through 2021. Chris, what was your reaction to that decision?"

As stated above, this was a surprise. Also as stated above, Nolan's main gripe was that the actual artistes in the industry were left in the dark. 

"Oh, I mean, disbelief," Nolan responded. "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." 

"So, there's a lot of controversy. It's very, very, very, very messy," he continued. "A real bait and switch. Yeah, it's sort of not how you treat filmmakers and stars and people who, these guys have given a lot for these projects. They deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work."

When the news was announced last week, a press release from WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group CEO Ann Sarnoff deemed it a "unique one-year plan," which is obviously related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.  

Feel free to re-consult that statement in a year's time. 

In addition to Wonder Woman 1984, which will hit HBO Max and theaters on Christmas, Warner Bros. Picture Group is also currently scheduled to release the following in the rapidly-approaching-year:

  • The Little Things
  • Judas and the Black Messiah 
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Godzilla vs. Kong
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Those Who Wish Me Dead
  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
  • In the Heights
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy
  • The Suicide Squad
  • Reminiscence 
  • Malignant 
  • Dune
  • The Many Saints of Newark
  • King Richard
  • Cry Macho
  • Matrix 4

Finally, as also expected, immediate reaction to the deal was not well received by those heading up theaters. 

A company rep for Cinemark said, "In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis. At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films."

AMC CEO Adam Aron was also predictably displeased. 

"Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up," Aron said. "As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business." 

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