As the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on the theater industry, Warner Bros. and its then-parent company AT&T made a decision in December 2020 that would burn several bridges in Hollywood: The studio’s entire 2021 movie slate would stream on HBO Max the same way. day than the theatres. On the face of it, the decision made sense given the public health concerns of the time. However, behind the scenes, executives at Warner Bros. would never have warned the filmmakers, which cost the studio a very powerful asset: Christopher Nolan.
Although the decision did not affect Nolan’s exit Principlewhich still bowed in theaters despite the pandemic, the director made a searing statement to The Hollywood Reporter slam the decision.
“Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars have gone to bed the night before thinking they’re working for the biggest movie studio and waking up to find they’re working for the worst department. streaming,” Nolan said.
Embittered by the HBO Max strategy, Nolan took on his new film, Oppenheimer, to Universal thus ending a relationship of almost two decades. However, thanks to the merger with Discovery, Warner Bros. is under new management, and new studio co-CEOs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy would really like to bring Nolan back into the fold. The two even admitted as much in a lengthy new interview with Variety which highlights the studio’s recommitment to theatrical releases:
“We hope to get Nolan back,” says De Luca. “I think there is a world.” Both execs admit that Universal Filmed Entertainment Group President Donna Langley is a force to be reckoned with because she got “Oppenheimer” after her public split with Warners. De Luca and Abdy remain hopeful. Two sources familiar with Nolan say the director received a seven-figure royalty check from Warner Bros. over the past eight months. The payment was tied to his 2020 film “Tenet,” which the studio released. A source says De Luca, Abdy and Zaslav all agreed he owed the bounty in good faith. There were no strings attached, according to insiders, but the studio was partly motivated to mend that fractured relationship.
The interview also quotes the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, who hammered home that the days of making movies for HBO Max, which is just Max, are over.
“Not only do we want to open more movies, but our theory is that we should keep them in theaters for as long as possible,” Zaslav said.
Will this be enough to win back Nolan? Its representatives did not respond to comments. However, Variety reports that he did post-production work on Oppenheimer on the grounds of Warner Bros., so there are potential signs of reconciliation.