WarnerMedia made a splash when it announced that Wonder Woman 1984 would be released in theaters and HBO Max on the same day, Christmas, earlier this year. Not long after that however the company delivered a real bombshell, confirming that all 17 of their movies set for release in 2021 would have the exact same rollout strategy, including major blockbusters like Godzilla vs Kong, The Suicide Squad, and Dune. As the news was revealed though it became clear that not everyone was aware that it was on the way, with some expressing their displeasure in the press and others reportedly considering all of their legal options.
In a new exposé on the matter, The Hollywood Reporter brings word that WarnerMedia didn't reveal the news of their HBO Max plans to talent and creative partners ahead of time because they worried the news would leak. WarnerBros. CEO and Chairman Ann Sarnoff said, "I wish we could have had more time to speak to our partners and talent. We are very conscious of paying a fair price for the HBO Max 31-day distribution of the movie, and we think they'll be happy to see how much effort we will put behind successfully launching these movies."
For Wonder Woman 1984 star that "fair price" was apparently in the millions of dollars as another story indicated the studio was eager to pay up to keep her and director Patty Jenkins happy ahead of a potential third film. Other creative parties whose movies are now on the way to HBO Max apparently aren't being offered similar deals for their films, with The Suicide Squad director James Gunn reportedly unhappy about it and Dune's Denis Villeneuve saying "AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history."
Keeping the news away from key talent has also had a major effect on the studio's appeal for anyone eager to work, with an unnamed "top agency source" telling THR: "This is sad and immature and from someone who doesn't really have the history, knowledge or experience of how entertainment works. Warner Bros. is now a Shakespearean tragedy."
In a move that we would describe in modern terms as "shade," Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley had this to say about the entire situation and other studio's insistence on similar moves: "Looking around the media landscape, you can see that a few studios are all trying to do a version of the same thing in terms of reorganizing the distribution ecosystem in order to be able to monetize our movies. That enables us to continue to be able to greenlight movies and do what we are doing and have a varied portfolio approach. This will evolve beyond COVID, I have no doubt. We are innovating, thinking of our future and protecting our filmmakers."