AT&T CFO Defends Warner Bros. Decision to Release 2021 Film Slate on HBO Max

Outgoing AT & T CFO John Stephens is still on board with the company's decision to release its 2021 movies in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time. The financial head for WarnerMedia's parent company mentioned in a virtual conference Tuesday he believes the studio will continue working with the same talented filmmakers it has for decades, despite the changing landscape surrounding the continual growth of streaming platforms. The latest comments come after several outspoken filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve released public statements railing against the decision.

"We've got a long history of working with the talent and will continue to work with them. I think we've got a reputation that goes [back] decades. Warner Bros. studio in particular, it's just decades and decades, almost a hundred years," Stephens said at the conference (via Deadline.) "This is a unique situation and we can't change that, that is just the reality. So we are trying to keep this system moving healthily forward and to utilizing the great content that is already there."

Stephens announced last November he intends to retire in March after working for AT&T for nearly 30 years.

"We are trying to use these valuable pieces of content in the best way we can in coordination with the theaters, and with HBO Max, we feel good about utilizing this in the best way we can and we'll see how it goes. We are excited for it. We are positive about it," the exec added.

Shortly after WarnerMedia announced the decision to add all of its 2021 movies to HBO Max the same day they were set to hit theaters, Villeneuve released a statement blasting HBO Max for "hijacking" Warner Brothers.

"I learned in the news that Warner Bros. has decided to release "Dune" on HBO Max at the same time as our theatrical release, using prominent images from our movie to promote their streaming service. With this decision, AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history," the Dune helmer's statement read.

"There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here. It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion," he added. "Therefore, even though "Dune" is about cinema and audiences, AT&T is about its own survival on Wall Street. With HBO Max's launch a failure thus far, AT&T decided to sacrifice Warner Bros.' entire 2021 slate in a desperate attempt to grab the audience's attention."


Cover photo by Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images