Warner Bros could soon be facing legal action over its decision to release its 2021 films into homes and cinemas at the same time.
It seems that Warner Bros has had toendure something of a week, following its seismic choice to abandon the exclusive theatrical window and simultaneously release its entire 2021 slate onto their streaming service, HBO Max, as well as cinemas.
Not only has it been attacked by cinema operators, but now prestigious director Christopher Nolan has attacked how ‘filmmaker-friendly’ its decision is, slamming the very attribute that made Warner Bros a favoured destination for creative talent.
According to Deadline, there may be more attacks yet to come for the studio, this time in the form of legal battles.
It’s being reported that Legendary Entertainment, who regularly co-finances film projects with Warner Bros, is putting together a legal challenge to oppose the studio’s decision to place key films straight onto its streaming service.
Whilst Warner Bros has distribution rights for several films produced in league with Legendary, such as Godzilla vs Kong and Dune, it’s nonetheless Legendary who has financed the bulk of those films, often contributing up to 75% of the cash.
As such, the company is dismayed with the decision made by Warner Bros. In the same way that Nolan has expressed scorn for HBO Max, calling it “the worst streaming service”, Legendary is believed to be concerned too that the platform, which is struggling to find market share in the US, could by association tarnish the release of their co-financed films. Even damaging future franchise opportunities.
Also pressing will be the possible loss of earnings in the shorter-term. It is believed that Legendary had come close to securing a $250, deal with Netflix to offload Godzilla vs Kong to the streaming platform, only for Warner Bros to announce, as distributors for the film, that it would be going in a very different direction.
Whilst the financial arrangements are unclear, it’s simple to see who benefits and who doesn’t.
With 17 high-profile titles debuting on HBO Max throughout 2021, the almost-guaranteed rise in subscribers will boost the stock of WarnerMedia as the streaming platform gains market share and thus becomes more valuable. However, with these films receiving smaller theatrical releases, any financial stakeholders with a share of the profits will be set to lose out as large proportions of US audiences will simply choose to watch them at home.
Of course, it isn’t just financiers like Legendary who stand to lose out here, but anybody who has a back-end financial interest in a film, such as directors or stars. As such, there might be more individuals choosing to follow both Nolan and Legendary’s lead and speak out against Warner Bros in the days to come. We’ll bring you more on this story as it continues to unfold.
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