Warner Bros. Promises to Pay Filmmakers Upfront for HBO Max Releases

After shaking the industry with the HBO Max announcement, Warner Bros. Pictures is now taking a major step toward satisfying collaborators that will cost a lot of money by revealing they are guaranteeing profits upfront. When Warner Bros. announced their unprecedented plan to debut every new movie in 2021 in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time, starting with the Christmas Day release of Wonder Woman 1984, the reactions were predictably divisive. Fans were thrilled they would have the option to stay home or go to the theaters, while those in Hollywood were upset over myriad reasons.

Some filmmakers complained that their films should be experienced in theaters, but the biggest question had to do with the payments in their contracts due to a lack of box office profits. But WarnerMedia's latest game-changing move could go a long way in alleviating filmmakers' concerns.

A new report from Bloomberg indicates that Warner Bros. is altering their contracts with partners so they can guarantee payments, and they won't be contingent on box office numbers. The deal is also said to increase odds for performance-based bonuses, and pay cast and crew members based on revenue collected from HBO Max.

Reports leaked yesterday about Warner Bros. negotiating with Legendary over the release of Godzilla vs. Kong; the movie is a part of the HBO Max premiere plan, but execs at Legendary were none too happy about the reveal. Dune is also a co-production with Legendary, and filmmaker Denis Villeneuve voiced his displeasure with the simultaneous HBO Max release. Villeneuve contended that it would hurt Dune's chances of getting a sequel, due to the high production costs and likely lower box office haul in the midst of the pandemic. The upcoming sequel The Matrix 4 is also included on the release slate.

Bloomberg's report states Warner Bros. new deal would give anyone their bonus at half of the box office haul normally needed. So if a movie needed to make $300 for filmmakers and cast to receive a bonus, now it just needs to make $150 million. They also account for more theater closures in a stipulation dubbed the "COVID-19 multiplier." People will also benefit from on-demand and online sales.

Internally, HBO Max is paying Warner Bros. fees for each film getting a simultaneous premiere with the money shared among cast and crew as well as those with performance incentives in their contracts.

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It's another unprecedented move for WarnerMedia, making major waves in Hollywood as they attempt to navigate this new normal amid the pandemic shutdowns and restrictions. It remains to be seen if it will actually pay off in the long run.

Wonder Woman 1984 is currently playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. The next Warner Bros. movie being released under this deal is Denzel Washington's thriller The Little Things, premiering on January 29th.