When Warner Bros. announced they were releasing all of their 2021 movie slate on HBO Max the same day as in theaters, one would think that everyone that Warner Bros. works with agreed to this idea before hand. Well, apparently that wasn't the case after Deadline reported Legendary is not too happy that Warner Bros. decided to move with this plan without their consent or notice.
"I’m hearing that Legendary Entertainment either has or will send legal letters to Warner Bros as soon as today, challenging the decision to put the Denis Villenueve-directed Dune into the HBO Max deal, and maybe Godzilla vs Kong as well. On the latter, Legendary reportedly had Netflix ready to pull the film from Warner Bros for around $250 million, before WarnerMedia blocked it. Sources said Legendary had no advance notice before last week’s announcement that both Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong were part of the HBO Max plan.
Legendary certainly seems to have the right to challenge WarnerMedia on its decision: Legendary and its partners provided 75% of the $165 million or so net budget of Dune, the adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel that was envisioned to be the first of multiple films exploiting the six-novel series. It put up a similar amount of the funding on the Godzilla vs. Kong film. Will the long-term viability of the franchises be tarnished by starting out as an HBO Max offering? It’s the same question the industry is asking about Wonder Woman. Legendary wouldn’t comment. I’m told there are three other films that have a right to believe movies they majority financed are being served up to provide a steroid shot to HBO Max’s paid subscriber base by undoing deals that were made for theatrical release and the traditional revenue waterfall."
From how it sounded, Warner Bros. has some serious issues with a lack of communication with their partners. It has been speculated that this is the reason why we did not see a trailer at CCXP, which would've meant that WB has been anticipating for this to happen for some time. If that was the case, then why would DUNE be at CCXP and not Godzilla vs Kong? I think CCXP is totally irrelevant to what is going on right now.
Also, it is not just Legendary that is upset by Warner's HBO Max plan. Tenet director, Christopher Nolan, also called out Warner Bros. saying, "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."
One of the biggest misconceptions I have heard is that this is just Christopher Nolan being upset over Tenet not making big bucks at the box-office. That is not what he is saying here. What Nolan is saying is that everyone that works with or for Warner Bros. were blind sided. None of Warner's partners were consulted over their movies being dropped on HBO Max. They weren't even given an advanced notification.
On top of that, Warner Bros. did not even have a plan to pay the actors, directors, producers, and the rest of the production crew. Currently, Legendary has stated that they are going to approach Warner Bros. with a generous offer before considering taking them to court. This sounds like (to me) Legendary wants to make sure that they and the people that worked on these movies are compensated. Legendary is responsible for 75% of Godzilla vs Kong's and DUNE's budgets. They have to make sure that those people are getting their cut of the money.
The interesting part of this story is that before Warner Bros. announced they were bringing all of their 2021 movies to HBO Max, Legendary was about to sell Godzilla vs Kong to Netflix for $200 million until Warner Bros. stepped in and blocked it. The movie's budget was just recently reported that it ranged around $155 million - $160 million. If Warner Bros. had not blocked Legendary's deal with Netflix, then the movie would have already almost made back the budget. However, in the eyes of Warner Bros. Netflix is considered a competitor to HBO Max. WB probably did not want any other streaming service showing their movies.
What would've happened though if Netflix did buy Godzilla vs Kong? Well a few weeks ago, Netflix Japan had released all of the Godzilla movies on to the streaming platform including Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Considering HBO Max is not available anywhere else other than in the United States, Godzilla vs Kong might have premiered on Netflix Japan so the United States are not the only ones watching the movie. Considering that we're probably getting Godzilla: Singular Point on Netflix around the same time as Japan, Netflix is probably a really easy platform to reach the international market.
One of the most interesting things to learn from all of this is DUNE director, Denis Villeneuve, doesn't fully blame Warner Bros. for deciding to release his movie on HBO Max without his consent. He blames AT&T for that happening. Yesterday, Villeneuve wrote an op-ed for Variety. This is what he had to say.
I learned in the news that Warner Bros. has decided to release “Dune” on HBO Max at the same time as our theatrical release, using prominent images from our movie to promote their streaming service. With this decision AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history. There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here. It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion. Therefore, even though “Dune” is about cinema and audiences, AT&T is about its own survival on Wall Street. With HBO Max’s launch a failure thus far, AT&T decided to sacrifice Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 slate in a desperate attempt to grab the audience’s attention.
In just the first paragraph, we can already establish Villeneuve is not blaming Warner Bros. for the current predicament. He actually has respect for Warner Bros. as an important studio. He does criticize them saying Warner Bros. might have killed DUNE's franchise before it was given a chance to be financially successful in theaters, but he is mostly pinning the blame on AT&T for (in his own words) sacrificing the studio's entire 2021 slate out of desperation.
Back in August, The Hollywood Reporter did an article about WarnerMedia's layoffs. In the article, AT&T's CFO, John Stephens, did mention say HBO Max is one of the key growth focus areas for WarnerMedia. That should have been a sign that AT&T is going to focus more on HBO Max. When I reported on the article, I thought that bringing movies over to HBO Max being a thing could be decided on the success of Disney's Mulan on Disney Plus, but that didn't seem to be the case. The case was that AT&T was going to focus on HBO Max regardless of Mulan's or any other movie's performance on a streaming platform.
So the question that people have now is what will happen to Godzilla vs Kong? Right now, Legendary and Warner Bros. are having meetings to come up with a deal without having this case go to court. If this does go to court, the judge could rule in favor of Warner Bros. since they are the distributor and have the right to choose how to distribute their movies the way they see fit. It sounds awful, but the deal is that they have announced these movies are still getting released in theaters the same day as the HBO Max release. We can still choose how to see these movies however we want. The problem is that not every state in the United States has movie theaters that are open. I do understand the sentiment Legendary, the movie theaters, and the cast and production crew have against Warner Bros.' decision without consulting with them first or giving them an advanced warning, but they have to understand that their movies may not be making as much money in theaters alone.
If you look at what happened to Tenet, the movie bombed in the domestic box-office because not every theater was open for business in every state and COVID-19 scared people away from movie theaters regardless of the updated cleansing procedures these theaters provided. Maybe with the vaccine that is getting ready for distribution this month things could change over time. We will see more people slowly coming back to the theaters, it's just going to take time and a lot of that time we are going to see these movies not perform as well as these studios hoped in the box-office.
What do you think of the Legendary vs Warner Bros. case? Do you think Legendary has a leg to stand on or do you think Warner Bros. made the right call despite not consulting/warning them first? Leave a comment in the comments section on your thoughts on this legal battle. Also, check out the store for some cool merchandise such as phone covers, mugs, laptop cases, and more. Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Minds, Parler, and MeWe to stay up to date for more news, reviews, and discussions.