One of the most controversial decisions of the film industry during the pandemic was hybrid premieres; that is, the films were released in theaters at the same time as on streaming services. Disney did it with Mulan – 83%, Raya and The Last Dragon – 97% and coming soon with Black Widow. However, the one who took the world by surprise was Warner when he announced on December 3, 2020 that seventeen films would be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max and did so without consulting anyone. The chains of cinemas felt abandoned by the studio and the directors of those films felt that the world was upon them. Christopher Nolan did not hesitate to say at the time that it had been an act of treason for his creatives and his actors:
Subscribe here to Disney Plus
Some of our industry’s top filmmakers and top movie stars went to bed the night before (December 3) thinking they were working for the best movie studio and woke up to find they were working for the worst streaming service.
Jason killar, CEO of Warner Bros. and Warner Media, just had an interview for the podcast Recode from Vox. There he admitted that his way of making the announcement was not correct; they should have started a dialogue with the directors and with the actors:
Also read: Warner films to return to exclusive theatrical releases in 2022
There is no doubt that what happened in early December last year was somewhat bumpy. If I had a chance to do it all over again, I think it’s fair to say that we would have taken a couple more days to see if we could have more conversations than we possibly could.
That said, he doesn’t regret that decision, he just thinks they didn’t handle it optimally. In that same interview, he revealed that they will no longer make the same mistake next year. Next year they will premiere first in theaters and then on their streaming service. That does not remove the fact that the damage has already been done. As I already mentioned, many directors felt betrayed by that announcement. An example is Adam Wingard who was devastated when he learned that Godzilla vs. Kong – 85% would hit theaters at the same time:
This was my first big movie, a great opportunity. More than that, this is a movie that is meant to be seen on the big screen. If any movie is that, it’s Godzilla vs. Kong. If you want to fill the screen size, this is the one you have to display. I was depressed, upset, sad. It took me a while to figure out the details.
Dune director Denis Villeneuve not only got depressed, he got angry and went so far as to say that they were killing the franchise:
Warner Bros. ‘decision means that’ Dune ‘will not have the opportunity to perform financially to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph. Warner Bros. may have killed the ‘Dune’ franchise. This is for the fans. AT & T’s John Stankey said the streaming racehorse came out of the stable. Indeed, the horse left the stable for the slaughterhouse.
These kinds of reactions were probably what led to Killar to admit that his announcement could have been planned in a better way. It is wise to admit when they are wrong. Hopefully this comment is a sign that the studio and its affected directors remain on good terms. In any case, the box office success of Godzilla vs. Kong It is a sign that movies can succeed in these difficult times, despite being simultaneously released on a streaming service. We’ll see next year if Warner is making the right decision by no longer doing so. The pandemic could give us another surprise. At this point, that possibility cannot be ruled out.
Don’t leave without reading: The Snyder Cut would have been HBO Max’s third biggest premiere of the year and not the second