Steven Soderbergh defends ‘economics’ of Warner Bros’ HBO Max decision

Steven Soderbergh defends ‘economics’ of Warner Bros’ HBO Max decision

Steven Soderbergh defends ‘economics’ of Warner Bros’ HBO Max decision

Steven Soderbergh defends ‘economics’ of Warner Bros’ HBO Max decision

Director Steven Soderbergh has weighed in on the ongoing Warner Bros./HBO Max debate, wherein the studio announced it would release its entire 2021 movie slate in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously.

Speaking to Vanity Fair about his new HBO Max film Let Them All Talk, the director expressed a balanced take on the situation, which has divided Hollywood.

“I think there’s obviously a lot of emotion flying around about these issues right now,” he said. “But I’ve looked as closely at the economics of all this as I possibly can, given the access that I have. There are just certain economic realities that you cannot wish away.”

“These things have a shelf life,” Soderbergh continued, referring to tentpole films like Wonder Woman 1984, which will be released in theatres and on HBO Max on Christmas Day. “They’re expensive. When they work, it’s because there’s timing involved. There’s a zeitgeist aspect to all of these things.”

Regarding the studio itself, Soderbergh said that Warner Bros. was essentially in a no-win scenario, where they have to make a decision.

“I think they’re looking at a scenario in which they either lose some money, or another scenario in which they lose a f**k-tonne of money,” he said. “That’s the decision. You’ve got to look at the next 12 to 18 months if you’re a studio. The fact is, there is not a theatrical-exhibition business that’s worth investing in [unless it’s] operating at 100 per cent capacity. Any other version of it, you’re throwing your money away.”

Other major Hollywood figures have spoken out against Warner Bros.’ decision to stream major tentpole films like Dune and a fourth Matrix film on HBO Max. Dune director Denis Villeneuve lambasted the studio’s plans in an op-ed published in Variety, writing, “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.”

Director Christopher Nolan also made his feelings clear, telling The Hollywood Reporter:”Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theatres 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.”

Soderbergh, meanwhile, agreed that Warner’s communication of the HBO Max news left something to be desired, saying, “But remember this: As soon as you call up the first representative of one of the actors or filmmakers to say, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about X,’ it’s all over town.”

“They were in this weird situation where they wanted to do this thing. But they knew if they called one person to tell them they were even thinking about it, cat’s out of the bag, and the narrative’s out of your control. It was a really unfortunate situation. I know from experience, people can wrap their minds around change. Surprises, they don’t like that so much. This was obviously a big surprise for a lot of people.”


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