Warner Bros.’ decision to drop its entire theatrical slate for 2021 day-and-date onto HBO Max has stoked ire among affected filmmakers. Directors like Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”) and Christopher Nolan (“Tenet”) have released scorching statements slamming the streaming service. “There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here,” Villeneuve wrote about the HBO Max decision last week. “It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth.”
In a new interview with The New York Times, WarnerMedia chief Jason Kilar has offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the thought process that contributed to the big announcement. In the profile, he called the reactions from filmmakers “painful” and said, “We clearly have more work to do as we navigate this pandemic and the future alongside them.”
He did defend the decision, however, and said that it was ultimately done with innovation, and the consumer, in mind. “There is no situation where everyone is going to stand up and applaud,” he said. “That’s not the way innovation plays out. This is not easy, nor is it intended to be easy. When you are trying something new, you have to expect and be ready for some people who are not comfortable with change. That’s OK.”
Kilar admitted to The Times that Warners should have been “more sensitive” to how the news was going to be received by talent and filmmakers — and with such short notice. (Sources say that Legendary Pictures, the production company behind “Dune,” found out about the deal merely 30 minutes before Warners went public.)
“A very important point to make — something I should have made a central part of our original communication — is we are thoughtfully approaching the economics of this situation with a guiding principle of generosity,” he said.
While the company has been criticized for not consulting all stakeholders about the decision, Kilar defended that decision as well. “There are some things that you can talk and talk and talk about, but it doesn’t necessarily change the outcome,” he said. “I don’t think this would have been possible if we had taken months and months with conversations with every constituent. At a certain point you do need to lead. And lead with the customer top of mind and make decisions on their behalf.”
Read the full story over at The New York Times.