Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures nearly lawyered up over Warner’s switching to an HBO Max centric release strategy, at least to ride out the pandemic. Apparently this was announced without consultation with any of its producing partners.
Legendary were the most annoyed as they had hundreds of millions of dollars sunk into three massive movies. Godzilla vs Kong, Dune and The Matrix 4. Points were expected on the back end from theatrical releases. Lawyers were threatened. Warner’s owned the rights to distribute, Legendary wanted paying.
The Hollywood Reporter says they are reaching a deal on Godzilla vs. Kong. It will go IMAX and Theaters where open, HBO Max on the same day and Legendary will bet to shop the movie in China, historically keen on big beasts.
Legendary will need to be compensated for this and based on the sunk costs this is likely to be over $200 million. That means Warner’s must have got very good news from crunching the figures on Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max over Christmas.
Negotiations over Dune are reportedly still ongoing with a hurdle in the shape of director Denis Villeneuve insisting on theatrical release. The same is true of Lana Wachowski and The Matrix 4. They will not be happy of their movies are denied a wide theatrical release.
Given the current state of the distribution landscape, and the wounds Warner’s still have from Tenet, can any of these directors really be too pushy? In eighteen months time they might be happy just to get work.