Director Christopher Nolan has hit out at Warner Bros, the Hollywood studio he has supplied blockbusters to for almost 20 years, over its recently revealed streaming release plans.
In a shock announcement last week, Warner Bros said its 2021 slate of films – including Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad and Dune – would launch on HBO Max at the same time as cinemas in the US. It came after the studio had already revealed that the Wonder Woman sequel will stream at the same time as hitting the big screen on Christmas Day.
While it means more fans will get to see the films during the COVID-19 pandemic, the “unprecedented” move has been seen by many as a huge blow to the struggling cinema industry.
One of Hollywood’s biggest directors, Nolan is famous for films including Inception, Dunkirk, the Dark Knight Batman trilogy, and most recently the long-awaited Tenet earlier in 2020, and is a big advocate for experiencing films on the big screen.
Responding to Warner Bros’ decision, he said his first reaction was “disbelief”.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Nolan said: “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.”
Nolan said the situation was “very, very, very, very messy”.
He continued: “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.”
Warner Bros is not the first studio to change the way it releases films as a result of the pandemic.
In her statement announcing Warner Bros’ move, Ann Sarnoff, chair and chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, said: “We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theatres in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”
It is not known whether Warner Bros’ plan will extend outside the US, as HBO Max is not yet available elsewhere.