Last week brought the massive news that Warner Bros. would bring their entire 2021 slate of feature film releases to their streaming service, HBO Max. Almost immediately, various movie theater chains weighed in on the landscape-changing decision by the iconic studio. Some were hesitant while others were outright enraged. But, it never occurred to anyone what the producers themselves might think.
Legendary, who put up 75% of the budget for both DUNE and GODZILLA VS. KONG, is reportedly weighing their legal options to try and prevent WB from releasing their potential blockbusters under the proposed streaming model. Simply put, they were not consulted by Warner Bros. before the news broke last week, meaning that Legendary found out that their tentpoles would be going to the small screen the same way we all did.
While there is bound to be a fight over all of this, Warner Bros. maintains that it has the right to shift to streaming under its existing distribution agreement with Legendary, according to a source that’s close to the matter. That being said, most of the risk of releasing Godzilla vs. Kong via HBO Max lies with the producer, not the studio. In other words, while Warner Bros. stands to make a fair bit of coin from the sale of HBO Max subscriptions, Legendary stands to lose much of what it recoups from releasing the film in theaters.
“The whole dealmaking process has to shift now because box office bonuses mean s–,” one producer said, while also pondering whether big-time filmmakers will continue to work with Warner Bros. under their new distribution model.
I’m no industry insider by any means but it sure sounds like Warner Bros. might be leaving some of their partners out in the cold with their new HBO Max initiative. Again, I’ve no clue as to how much of this stuff works, I simply know that if I were in business with someone, I’d want them to include me in their plans to distribute my film in a way that stands to pick from my pocket. I suspect we’ll be hearing much more about all of this in the weeks to come, especially as Warner Bros. plans on releasing films from other production partners via HBO Max down the road. Things could get very messy, folks. Buckle up.