Ann Sarnoff, the chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, announced last week that the studios shall premier its 17 movies scheduled for 2021 simultaneously in theatres as well as its newly launched OTT streaming platform HBO Max. The announcement was met with severe flak from the Hollywood industry and raised concerns in film industries across the globe.
"We're living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. 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," said Sarnoff.
The seventeen movies listed for simultaneous release include The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho and Matrix 4.
Director Christopher Nolan whose relationship with Warner Bros. dates back to Insomnia and the latest of which has been Tenet, released in theatres amidst the pandemic, slammed it as a move to sabotage the work of the 'industry's biggest filmmakers'. "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 fledgeling streaming service -- without any consultation," said Nolan.
HBO Max, launched in May 2020, has 38 million subscribers in the US of which only 8.6 million accounts are activated as compared to Netflix that has 76 million subscribers in the US alone. The directors, actors and agents of the 17 movies were not consulted and neither was distribution deals made with cinemas, reports CNBC.
Ann Sarnoff, however, has been backing the company's decision. The outcome of the debate shall be a landmark in the history of film distribution in Hollywood which shall have an impact across the globe with theatres being considered an alternate way of film viewing with a reduced scope of post-Covid recovery, say experts.