Legendary Pictures is unhappy with Warner Bros.’ newly revealed streaming release strategy, particularly as it would apply to their films Dune and Godzilla vs Kong, and are set to challenge the studio’s decision in court.
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In Bounding Into Comics’ previous coverage of the Warner Bros. – HBO Max deal, it was noted that Legendary had turned down a roughly $200 Million USD deal from Netflix to deliver Godzilla vs Kong exclusively to their platform, with the article speculating that “the kaiju-friendly studio’s reaction [to the HBO Max announcement] is sure to be interesting.”
Given that the studio seemed poised to fight Warner Bros’ decision, it came as no surprise when Deadline Editor Mike Fleming Jr. announced that he had received word that “that Legendary Entertainment either has or will send legal letters to Warner Bros as soon as today, challenging the decision to put the Denis Villeneuve-directed Dune into the HBO Max deal, and maybe Godzilla Vs Kong as well.”
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Fleming’s sources also informed him that “Legendary had no advance notice” of Warner Bros.’ plans before they made last week’s industry-shattering announcement.
It’s an extra wrinkle too that, according to Fleming, the rejected Netflix offer was $50 million higher than initially reported.
This undoubtedly adds salt to the wounds of Legendary and its investors, who reportedly funded the bulk of the Dune and GVK’s whopping budgets, as according to Fleming, “Legendary and its partners provided 75% of the $165 million or so net budget of Dune, the Denis Villenueve-directed adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel that was envisioned to be the first of multiple films exploiting the six-novel series,” and “put up a similar amount of the funding on the Godzilla Vs. Kong film.”
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A caveat to that line of reasoning, however, is that Warner Bros. is the distributor of these films, and thus acts as the final arbiter of where both films will wind up.
That the studio wants to give as big and potent a boost to HBO Max as possible begs the question of just how their ambitions will affect the franchises caught in the maelstrom.
“Will the long term viability of the franchises be tarnished by starting out as an HBO Max offering?” Fleming asked rhetorically. “It’s the same question the industry is asking about Wonder Woman.”
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It’s important to note that while reps for Legendary “wouldn’t comment,” Fleming claims he was “told there are three other films that have [been led 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.”
In Warner’s defense, Fleming pointed out how dealmakers “understood Warner Bros was in a tough spot; movies on a shelf accumulating interest costs (though interest is low right now), and the likelihood of half a year or more of the kind of paltry attendance that hobbled the studio’s Christopher Nolan film Tenet, before the theatrical market comes back with a glut of product.”
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However, despite how “a vaccine is just around the corner”, Fleming also recognized that some in the industry “were upset that Warner Bros announced a full year of movies to HBO Max, instead of leaving open the possibility the experiment would end if movie going rebounds after a vaccine eradicates the pandemic.”
“They believe it was to make a statement to Wall Street about the overriding importance of HBO Max subs,” Fleming explained.
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Peter Bart then took over the conversation, placing blame not on Warner’s film division, but their parent company, AT&T, and posing the question “Who’s delivering this lugubrious and ambiguous message?”
“Answer: It’s not the chief of Warners. It’s the chief of AT&T, which runs Warners,” he replied to himself. “Hollywood leaders puzzled how executives [John Stankey and Randall Stephenson] trained to deal with the phone business could adjust to a broader, more complex landscape? In making show business decisions, they can’t just look at data; they’d have to study people.”
Wherever the blame lies, more filmmakers are expressing their disapproval of Warner’s decision. Nolan called the service “the worst” while The Suicide Squad director James Gunn was reportedly “not pleased when the studio followed its shocking announcement by floating a lackluster formula for compensating him,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Whose side are you on? Do you look forward to legal action that could protect Legendary’s investment? Or do you want your kaiju action now? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!