Signage for the AT&T WarnerMedia HBO Max streaming service. Picture: BLOOMBERG/GABBY JONES
Signage for the AT&T WarnerMedia HBO Max streaming service. Picture: BLOOMBERG/GABBY JONES

New York — The backlash over Warner Bros’ plan to release all its movies on the HBO Max streaming service intensified after one of Hollywood’s top directors criticised the move.

Christopher Nolan, who has a long relationship with the studio, criticised the plan in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, saying the move made “no economic sense” and that “even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction”.

WarnerMedia, AT&T’s media arm, shocked Hollywood last week by deciding to put its entire 2021 movie slate on HBO Max at the same time the movies hit theatres. The company gave little warning about the plan, and it sent shares of movie chains plummeting. For actors, directors, producers and financiers tied to Warner Bros films, the approach threatens to undercut earnings.

Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, was released in theatres on September 3. Its disappointing box-office take in the US, where it made just $57.6m, was seen as a factor behind WarnerMedia’s decision. The straight-to-streaming plan affects big-budget films such as Dune, The Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad and Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Subscribers to HBO Max, which was launched in May to compete with Netflix and Walt Disney’s Disney+, will be able to see the movies at no additional charge — an attempt to jump-start growth.

Nolan, 50, told Entertainment Tonight that he met the decision with “disbelief”.

Works from top filmmakers and stars are “being used as a loss leader for the streaming service — for the fledgling streaming service — without any consultation”, he said. “So, there’s a lot of controversy. It’s very, very, very, very messy. A real bait and switch.”

A representative for the director — who also made Warner Bros movies such as Dunkirk, Interstellar and Inception, in addition to a successful Batman series — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In his remarks to the Hollywood Reporter, Nolan took the criticism further.

“Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service,” he said.

“Warner Bros had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theatres and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing.”


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