Warner Bros. has an answer to movie-goers needs. They are going to stream their movies on the HBO Max service. Or so they said in a huge announcement last week. With the COVID pandemic still shuttering most movie theaters, the announcement, at first, seemed like a good idea to get the WB’s slate of movies to an audience in need of some sort of escape. But not all parties involved are happy with this and some are working to stop it.
Warner’s huge announcement was simple and straightforward. They plan on releasing their entire 2021 slate simultaneously to movie theaters and HBO Max, the streaming service they own. This would include such huge movies as Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Malignant, and Mortal Kombat among others.
But after giving it a few days to marinate, Legendary Pictures has decided that what the WB is doing isn’t kosher and plans on fighting it. Mike Fleming Jr said in a column over at Deadline that, “I’m hearing that Legendary Entertainment either has or will send legal letters to Warner Bros. as soon as today, challenging the decision to put the Denis Villenueve-directed Dune into the HBO Max deal, and maybe Godzilla vs Kong as well.” This goes to the fact, according to Fleming, that Legendary had no advanced knowledge before Warner’s announcement last week that there were plans to put those movies on the HBO Max calendar.
With Dune, it seems Legendary may have some legal backbone as they and their partners provided 75% of the film’s $165 million budget. It may also have some legal standing with Godzilla vs. Kong as they put up similar numbers in terms of budget. Fleming also noted that there are possibly three other movies in which investors have an interest in are being handed over to HBO Max to help provide a boost to the flagging streaming service.
Legal action isn’t imminent, though it is said that it’s not off the table. What Legendary is now looking for here is a more lucrative deal in negotiations but if they can’t find a compromise, the inside of a court may be the next step. There is no telling on what grounds Legendary would use to make this action legal but more than likely some sort of breach of contract.
One of Legendary’s main frustrations, despite virtually being the bank for Warner, is the fact they had no control over when their movies would be released. They also felt that Warner Bros. was not transparent when it came to their intentions. A few months back, Netflix was poised to buy Godzilla vs. Kong for a nifty $250 million but WarnerMedia decided to block the sale.
In their decision to go both routes at the same time, Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, said in her statement last week, “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 theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021. With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films. We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.”
CEO of WarnerMedia, Jason Kilar, also added, “After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months. More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”