Christopher Nolan was the first filmmaker to come out against Warner Bros.’ controversial decision to dump their 2021 movie slate onto HBO Max, and he’s also been the most furious. Since then other directors, including Dune’s Denis Villeneuve, have joined him, calling the studio out for what they see as a short-sighted decision. Now Nolan is back to slamming Warner’s, and while he’s a little less keyed-up, he’s sticking with his guns.
Nolan’s beef isn’t so much that Warner’s is disrespecting the hard work of his cast and crew as it is that they’re missing out on making some serious dough. “The economics of it are unsound unless you’re purely looking at movements in share price, number of eyeballs on the new streaming service,” Nolan told NPR. “Theatrical is really only one part of what we’re talking about here. You’re talking about your home video window, your secondary, tertiary windows. These are things very important to the economics of the business and to the people who work in the business.”
Nolan was also worried about his crew, including those below-the-line employees who rely on huge productions, like Tenet and Dunkirk and more, to pay the bills and feed their families. “I’m talking about when I come on the set and I’ve got to shoot a scene with a waiter or a lawyer who has two or three lines,” Nolan explained. “They need to be earning a living in that profession, working maybe sometimes a couple of days a year. And that’s why the residuals structure is in place.”
“That’s why the unions have secured participations for people down the line … “So when a movie is sold to a television station 20 years after it was made, a payment is made to the people who collaborated on that on that film. And these are important principles that when a company starts devaluing the individual assets by using them as leverage for a different business strategy without first figuring out how those new structures are going to have to work, it’s a sign of great danger for the ordinary people who work in this industry.”
It’s a more restrained — though no less impassioned — takedown of Warner’s decision than the one he made earlier in the week, where he called HBO Max “the worst streaming service.” (He was probably referring to its struggles to make a mark in the marketplace, not to its content, which is, frankly, the best and most diverse in the business.)
Warner’s HBO Max deal will involve them dropping their new releases both on the streamer and in theaters on the same day. It came after Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, dramatically underperformed at the box office, almost certainly because most audiences are terrified of sitting inside with strangers during a once-in-a-century pandemic.