It looks like Warner Bros. needs to provide a bit more transparency with their plans to release their entire 2021 film slate of seventeen films on the HBO Max streaming service and movie theaters on the same day. The Directors Guild of America has written a critical letter to the studio about their HBO Max streaming plan and they’re demanding a meeting.
Per “The Hollywood Reporter“, the Guild has sent a letter to Warner Bros. requesting a meeting to outline their complaints about their release strategy. The report says that part of the frustration that the Guild has with the studio revolves around a meeting that took place in November of last year, in which Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff discussed their future plans for keeping a fair market value for films while they figured out the exact role of HBO Max. After their release strategy for 2021 was revealed last week, many felt that the company’s new plan contradicts the discussions that were had during that meeting. The Guild is now requesting another meeting with Sarnoff to address these new issues.
What’s unknown is if the discussion back in November of last year factored in unforeseen circumstances. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and it has single handily crippled the theatrical experience. Many movie theaters in key markets remain shuttered and those that are open have to run at a very strict limited capacity. Studios are doing the best they can to recoup the money they threw into these films which is why this unprecedented release strategy was implemented. That being said, various media reports suggest that A LOT of people in the industry are very upset about this move and it caused a bit of a seismic shift. The main culprit was the lack of communication between Warner Bros. and those involved with the films set for release in 2021 about the new plan. Top talent agents have said their clients blew up their phones with angry messages when the news broke last Friday and high-profile directors like Christopher Nolan, James Gunn, and Denis Villeneuve are not pleased that films made for the theatrical experience will now be used to essentially promote their streaming service.
I’m very curious to see if more criticism will lead Warner Bros. to adjust their plan going forward. From what I can gather, they think the one-year pandemic plan is best for their bottom line and they may hit back at these criticisms anyway they can. It’s hard for me to believe that a major studio wouldn’t consider the consequences of a move like this. They had to think about the potential blowback and are likely ready with their rebuttal to any opposition that comes their way. I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more about this moving forward because it’s certainly news that has the industry buzzing at the moment and lines are clearly being drawn in the sand.
What are YOUR thoughts on Warner Bros.’ plans? Should they have been more transparent?