Tenet Director Christopher Nolan Speaks Out on Controversial HBO Max Move

Last week Warner Bros. shook up the film and entertainment industry as we know it by announcing that its entire 2021 film slate will premiere on the HBO Max streaming service, specifically following the release model set up with the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984 in which the films will still release in theaters where available but will simultaneously debut on HBO Max as well. Now, filmmaker Christopher Nolan, whose Warner Bros. film Tenet opened in theaters back in September, is speaking out with his reaction this decision, expressing disbelief at the groundbreaking release shift.

In an interview with ET, Nolan had some interesting comments about the decision, saying that there is controversy around the choice based on how Warner Bros. went about things.

"Oh, I mean, disbelief," Nolan said when asked about his reaction to the decision. "Especially in the way in which they did. There's so much controversy around it because they didn't tell anyone. 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 fledgling streaming service -- without any consultation. So, there's a lot of controversy. It's very, very, very, very messy. A real bait and switch. Yeah, it's sort of not how you treat filmmakers and stars and people who, these guys have given a lot for these projects. They deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work."

Nolan is a filmmaker who notably prefers that his own work be seen on the largest screen possible. When it comes to Tenet in particular -- a film that was one of the very few to be released theatrically over the summer and 2020 more broadly -- Nolan has been clear that it's a film he wanted to have a big screen experience.

"I think of all the films that I've made, this is perhaps the one that is most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience," Nolan shared with CineEurope participants this past June. "This is a film whose image and sound really needs to be enjoyed in your theaters on the big screen and we're very, very excited for you to see what it is we've done. We've made big films in the past, but this is a film whose global reach and level of action is beyond anything we've ever attempted before. I think we only would have been able to pull off this film with the level of experience we've had doing action films in the past."

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, theaters remain closed or open at reduced capacity, something that prompted Warner Bros. decision. While the long-term repercussions are something that anyone with a stake in the future of entertainment continues to discuss, Nolan was optimistic about theaters being able to bounce back going forward -- and that people will prefer theaters to home when it is safe again.

"Long-term, I think all of the studios know that the movie theater experience will bounce back and be a very important part of the ecosystem long-term," Nolan said to ET. "What you have right now in our business is a lot of the use of the pandemic as an excuse for sort of grappling for short-term advantage. And it's really unfortunate. It's not the way to do business and it's not the best thing for the health of our industry. But when the theaters are back and people are going back to the movies, when the vaccine has been rolled out and there's an appropriate health response from the federal government, I'm very bullish on the long-term prospects of the industry. People love going to the movies and they're going to get to go again."

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Tenet lands on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD on December 15th.

What do you think about Nolan's comments? About Warner Bros. decision to debut its 2021 slate on HBO Max? Let us know in the comments!