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Sony Pictures CEO Confirms Increase in Director Interest After Warner Bros. HBO Max Push

Sony Pictures has no intention of releasing its movies day and date in theaters and on home video/VOD platforms.

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

Sony’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Sony

According to Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra, the studio is seeing “a bit of boom” in interest from filmmakers who want to work with the company because it prioritizes theatrical releases over streaming. Sony saw a significant increase in interest following Warner Bros.’ controversial decision to move its 2021 film slate to a hybrid release model where movies open in theaters and stream on HBO Max for a 31-day period starting at the same time. Warner Bros.’ HBO Max shift had caused industry outrage, including criticisms from Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve.

“After the Warner Bros announcement, it’s been a bit of a boom for us because it’s made dating our movies next year somewhat easier,” Vinciquerra said this week during an interview with CNBC (via The Verge). “But the real benefit has been the number of incoming calls from talent, creators, actors, and directors to us saying, ‘We want to be doing business with you because we know you’re a theatrical distributor and producer.’ That has worked very well for us.”

Vinciquerra’s claim that Sony is already seeing an increase in filmmaker interest following Warner Bros.’ HBO Max announcement supports several predictions “Wonder Woman 1984” director Patty Jenkins has been making to the press over the last several days. As Jenkins told The New York Times, the studio that commits to theatrical releases will see the most interest from top filmmmakers.

“I’ll tell you, some studio’s going to go back to the traditional model and cause tremendous upheaval in the industry, because every great filmmaker is going to go work there,” Jenkins said. “And the studios that make this radical change [of moving their theatrical releases to a streaming service], particularly without consulting the artists, will end up with a very empty slate of quality filmmakers working there.”

While Sony is open to selling films to streamers (see Tom Hanks’ “Greyhound” moving from Sony to Apple earlier this year in a deal worth a reported $70 million), Vinciquerra said the company has no plans to begin releasing movies day-and-date in theaters and on streaming platforms like Warner Bros.’ new strategy. Sony is committed to theatrical release and is now only focused on conversations regarding theatrical release windows.

“We’re not changing course to any big degree,” Vinciquerra said. “We do think windows will become much more flexible and we’re thankful for that. We think that’s good for the industry and a good thing for our films. Some movies will do better with a short window and some movies will do better with a much longer window.”

Universal Pictures has been at the forefront of theatrical window changes this year. Last month, the studio announced it had signed an agreement with Cinemark and AMC Theaters to set theatrical windows based on opening weekend grosses. Universal films that earn over $50 million on their opening weekends will have at least a 31-day theatrical window, while films that earn less than $50 million can have a 17-day theatrical window. This Universal release plan will keep big budget tentpoles in theaters for longer, which is something Sony wants to continue.

“Big budget films require the windows that are in the flow now and we will continue with that,”  Vinciquerra said. “Every film released will have an individual negotiation with the exhibitors. We think 30 day windows are probably the best.”

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