Amid rumors HBO was getting cold feet about airing “Leaving Neverland” and challenges from the Michael Jackson estate about the company’s journalistic responsibility, programming president Casey Bloys said the network will proceed with plans to release the four-hour film this March.
“I don’t know where those reports came from, but there has been no wavering,” Bloys told IndieWire, adding HBO has “absolutely not” second-guessed their Sundance buy. “All I ask on this show is that people reserve judgement until they watch it, and after you see how powerful it is and how eloquent [the subjects] are about [describing] the abuse they suffered, it’s hard to argue with. Everybody has to watch it and make their own decisions.”
Reports surfaced Friday morning following repeated protests from the Estate of Michael Jackson. Through their attorney, the family released a letter prior to “Leaving Neverland’s” Sundance premiere and another after it debuted to largely positive reviews.
Bloys said HBO felt comfortable from a legal standpoint, as well — a key detail given the estate’s latest letter to the network, demanding a meeting before the documentary premieres to find a “solution” agreeable to both sides.
Earlier on Friday, HBO announced the first part of the documentary would premiere Sunday, March 3 at 8pm, and the second the following night, Monday, March 4 at the same time. The project centers on “two men who recount their experiences of being sexually abused by Michael Jackson.”
Bloys also told IndieWire part of the company’s strategy for film pickups was centered on projects that would “spark a conversation and debate — in a good way.” HBO also acquired “Share” and “Native Son” out of this year’s festival, after picking up “The Tale” in 2018.
He said the company was still deciding if they might explore theatrical releases for these acquisitions and future pick-ups.
“We’ve had conversations about it. We might,” Bloys said. “But really, we’re obviously in television and Emmys are our business. But there may be a theatrical component. We’re still talking about it.”