Christopher Nolan reacts to Warner Bros. streaming shakeup

Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. delayed the release of his sci-fi thriller Tenet three times this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, determined to show it in theaters.

So it’s no surprise that the filmmaker felt “disbelief” when he learned of the studio’s bombshell decision to release its entire 2021 film slate in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, including Dune, In the Heights, and The Matrix 4. Ahead of Tenet’s home video release next week, Nolan shared his thoughts on the future of moviegoing with Entertainment Tonight.

“Oh, I mean, disbelief. Especially the way in which they did,” Nolan said, recounting his reaction to the announcement. “There’s such controversy around it, because they didn’t tell anyone. In 2021, they’ve got some of the top filmmakers in the world, they’ve got some of the biggest stars in the world who worked for years in some cases on these projects very close to their hearts that are meant to be big-screen experiences. They’re meant to be out there for the widest possible audiences… And now they’re being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service — for the fledgling streaming service — without any consultation.”

Nolan, who has a long history working with Warner Bros., also called the move “very, very, very, very messy” and “a real bait and switch” for everyone involved in the films, who he said “deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work.”

In separate remarks to The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan blasted HBO Max, 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.”

He added that Warner Bros. “had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”

Representatives for Warner Bros. and HBO Max declined to comment on Nolan’s remarks.

Despite Nolan’s surprise over the shakeup, he told ET he still believes movie theaters will bounce back, and said he thinks Hollywood is using “the pandemic as an excuse for sort of grappling for short-term advantage.”

“And it’s really unfortunate,” he continued. “It’s not the way to do business and it’s not the best thing for the health of our industry. But when the theaters are back and people are going back to the movies, when the vaccine has been rolled out and there’s an appropriate health response from the federal government, I’m very bullish on the long-term prospects of the industry. People love going to the movies and they’re going to get to go again.”