Hollywood’s biggest filmmakers are continuing to speak out against WarnerMedia’s decision to premiere its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max alongside their respective film releases. Judd Apatow, who has a working relationship with Universal Pictures and has no projects directly tied to the move, spoke on the matter to Variety during its upcoming Virtual FYC Fest.
“When I heard about the Warner Bros. thing, it certainly made me appreciate Universal because they called me and said, ‘How do you feel about the release of your movie,’” Apatow shared, referring to The King Of Staten Island, which also skipped theaters. “It was a very respectful conversation about how to get the movie out there.” He compares his experience to those who were directly impacted by WarnerMedia’sthe decision, which includes Dune and Godzilla Vs. Kong producer Legendary, who was reportedly only given 30 minutes notice prior to the announcement and is pursuing legal action. “It’s somewhat shocking that a studio, for their entire slate, could call what appears to be nobody. It’s the type of disrespect that you hear about in the history of show business. But to do that to just every single person that you work with is really somewhat stunning.”
Apatow went on to explain how the plan raises “thousands of questions” about how residuals and back-end compensation for creators are impacted by streaming releases: “It creates a financial nightmare, because most people are paid residuals — they’re paid back-end points. What they get out of it for years and years of hard work is usually based on the success of their films. And so now what does it mean to have a movie go straight to streaming? How do they decide what to pay you? Do you even have a contract that allows you to negotiate, or is it really just up to them at this point?”
Apatow’s insights come after comments from Christopher Nolan, who called HBO Max “the worst streaming service;” and Dune director Denis Villeneuve, who blasted the move as “a desperate attempt to grab the audience’s attention.” This also arrives after AMC Theaters announced that it will likely run out of money by January unless they received, a development that was somewhat foreshadowed well before WarnerMedia announced the shocking release plan, but is nevertheless mentioned in the same breath with the new deal by a section of vocal detractors. Either way, the pandemic is causing some studios to seriously reconfigure their release plans in order to guarantee some form of revenue over the next year. As for the studios that are still holding out for traditional theater releases in 2021—like Marvel, for instance—only time will tell if those goals are still sustainable.