Warner Bros did a very unprecedented if not predictable move last week by moving their entire 2021 film slate to their new streaming service, HBO Max. Because COVID-19 pandemic is only getting worse it seems like, theaters across the country are still mostly closed. So why does this move have so many producers and actors angry with WB?
In the case of the upcoming superhero sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, agents argued that star Gal Gadot, director Patty Jenkins, and the producer Charles Roven (among others) needed to be paid what they most likely would have received had the sequel been released in a traditional manner (an exclusive run in theaters before arriving online) and not during the height of a pandemic. After all, that was what they signed up for, and Warner Bros. and HBO Max, its corporate sibling, wanted their help in promoting the film, did they not?
After a tense negotiation, Warner Bros., which is owned by AT&T, agreed that Ms. Gadot and Ms. Jenkins would each get more than $10 million, according to two people with knowledge of the deals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private agreements.
Last week, when Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia’s chief executive, announced that 17 more Warner Bros. movies would each roll out on HBO Max and in theaters much like “Wonder Woman 1984,” Now this is where it gets shady and WB continues to show it’s ugly side: To prevent the news of the 17-movie shift from leaking (and to make the move speedily rather than get mired in the expected blowback), WarnerMedia kept the major agencies and talent management companies in the dark until roughly 90 minutes before issuing a news release. Even some Warner Bros. executives had little warning.
The surprise move left agencies in a very weak and awkward predicament. Representatives for major Warner Bros. stars like Denzel Washington, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Jackman, and Angelina Jolie wanted to know why their clients had been treated in a lesser manner than Ms. Gadot. Talk of a Warner Bros. boycott began circulating inside the Directors Guild of America. A partner at one talent agency spent part of the weekend meeting with litigators. Some people started to angrily refer to the studio as Former Bros.
“For the longest time, Warner Bros. has been known as the best home for talent, and that has been a significant competitive advantage,” Michael Nathanson, a founder of the MoffettNathanson media research firm, said in a phone interview. “With this move, they alienated the very talent they have worked so hard to attract. These aren’t engineers you can just replace.”
WarnerMedia’s aggrieved partners include Legendary Entertainment, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, Legendary produced the upcoming “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” under a deal that required Legendary (and its affiliates) to ultimately shoulder 75 percent of the production costs, with Warner Bros. paying for the balance. Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” a science-fiction epic starring Timothée Chalamet and an array of other big names (Zendaya, Jason Mamoa), cost an estimated $165 million. “Godzilla vs. Kong” cost about $155 million.
Now directors are speaking out against Warner Bros as well. “Tenet” director, producer, and writer Christopher Nolan as one prominent industry player upset about the decision that some observers have deemed game-changing.
“The decision they made from a business point of view is fundamentally irrational,” Nolan, whose long relationship with Warner Bros. dates back to 2002’s “Insomnia” tells USA TODAY of the studio.
Director James Gunn, whose The Suicide Squad is one of the films being sent to HBO Max also was very unpleased with WB blindsiding talent with his movie being sent to the streaming service. In a new report from The Hollywood Reporter, Trade reveals:
WARNERMEDIA MUST HAVE SPENT TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ON GAL GADOT AND THE OTHER KEY PLAYERS BECAUSE THE COMPANY WANTS A THIRD IN THE SERIES. BUT THAT SETS THE BAR HIGH. THE SOURCES EVEN SAY SUICIDE SQUAD PLATFORM INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR JAMES GUNN WAS NOT HAPPY WHEN THE STUDIO FOLLOWED UP ON HIS SHOCKING ANNOUNCEMENT WITH A LACKLUSTER FORMULA TO COMPENSATE HIM AND THE OTHER PARTICIPANTS FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE FILM.
Now back to Legendary, they are currently going to court (allegedly) to block both Godzilla vs Kong and Dune from premiering on HBO Max because, like everyone else, they were left in the dark about the news and mainly because (as previously mentioned) they put up the majority of the money on both films to get them made.
Warner Bros continues to find new ways to stumble over their own feet. Whether it was the mishandling of the of various film properties and or management caring more about bonuses than the quality of their films, WB continues to make people wonder how they are able to stay in business. Well this misstep might cost them the most in the long run. What director or star will be able to trust WB going forward after this? WB needs to do some SERIOUS damage control and fast.