Warner Bros. decision to release their 2021 film slate on the HBO Max streaming service and in theaters on the same day has been front and center as the main topic of discussion within the industry, with most high-profile filmmakers denouncing the release plan. Added to that list is director Judd Apatow who thinks the strategy is “disrespectful” to filmmakers.
“It’s somewhat shocking that a studio for their entire slate could call what appears to be nobody. It’s the type of disrespect that you hear about in the history of show business. But to do that to just every single person that you work with is really somewhat stunning.”
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has maintained that his company consulted with over 700 professionals affected by the decision before announcing their new release strategy but it is abundantly clear that prominent names with 2021 films on deck were not consulted. Director of Dune, Denis Villeneuve, seemed completely surprised by the plan while reports have said director James Gunn, who directed The Suicide Squad, was also blindsided. The issue here seems to be more about transparency rather than the plan itself and Apatow thinks that payment to film teams has become unnecessarily complicated by the turn of events:
“It creates a financial nightmare, because most people are paid residuals – they’re paid back-end points. What they get out of it for years and years of hard work is usually based on the success of their films. And so now what does it mean to have a movie go straight to streaming? How do they decide what to pay you? Do you even have a contract that allows you to negotiate, or is it really just up to them at this point? It raises thousands of questions, which I’m sure are very complicated.”
Apatow seems like the best person to consult on this matter because his film, THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND, was intended for a theatrical release but had to settle for a VOD debut thanks to the pandemic. Apatow recalls having a respectful conversation with Universal Pictures, which produced The King of Staten Island, which led to an amicable decision to release the movie via VOD:
“It was a very respectful conversation about how to get the movie out there. [That movie is the] only thing I really have to give to the human race is something pleasant at a time like this that might make you feel happy and appreciate the people that are risking their lives for you. [Watching the Warner Bros. decision unfold] certainly made me appreciate Universal.”
It will be interesting to see how WarnerMedia chooses to respond to the increasing outcry regarding its decision given the fact that so many prominent names have spoken out against the plan. I’m guessing they will change course at some point and will make changes to the strategy but only time will tell. I’m starting to think that maybe they weren’t expecting so much push back and now they have to think about what’s next in terms of making this all right.
Do YOU think WarnerMedia will change their release strategy or do YOU think they should stick to it?