Like many in Hollywood, director M. Night Shyamalan is unhappy with Warner Bros.’ unorthodox dual release plan for their slate of 2021 releases, adding his voice to the chorus of criticism being directed towards the studio’s experimental schedule.
News of Warner Bros.’s intent was made known to the public and insiders simultaneously. The latter, a number of them actors and filmmakers under contract with the studio, were directly impacted and vented their frustrations to various media outlets, as Shyamalan did in an interview with Fandom.
“You only have to guess what my reaction is to that,” said The Sixth Sense director. “I don’t support it at all. At all. And especially without talking to the filmmakers.”
He added, “[It’s] obviously corporate-driven and I feel bad for all my colleagues that found out that way and are dealing with it now. That’s not the answer.”
Those colleagues include Tenet director Christopher Nolan, who believed that the new schedule reduced WB from a studio to “the worst streaming service,” and Dune helmer Denis Villeneuve.
In December, Villeneuve penned an essay for Variety excoriating Warner Bros., writing “Warner Bros.’ decision means ‘Dune’ won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph.”
Villeneuve further lamented how, though Dune was “meticulously” made for theaters, Warner Bros. “might just have killed the ‘Dune’ franchise” by letting “the streaming horse” leave the barn for the slaughterhouse.
Villeneuve’s sentiments are far from unusual, as the director’s essay even received support from his Dune cast members Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa. The film’s production company, Legendary Pictures, also briefly challenged Warner Bros.’ hybrid release on the grounds that it would hurt their bottom line for both Dune and their other upcoming release, Godzilla vs Kong.
Netflix reportedly made an offer for the distribution rights to GVK in the area of $200 million, covering Legendary’s 75% stake in the film, which Warner blocked. Thankfully, Legendary and Warner seem to have reached a deal, as GVK was recently given a moved up release date of March 26, 2021.
Another point of concern, aside from the obvious shakeup to potential profits, are the theaters themselves, with Shyamalan expressing to Fandom his fear for the survival of the institutions.
That’s certainly not the answer, and I very much hope we will all be going back to the theaters soon-ish,” he said. “Three months, four months, five months, whatever it is.”
He continued, “And that both can co-exist; that we have high-end entertainment at home and we have high-end entertainment when we want to go out. There’s no need to cannibalize one for the other.”
Shyamalan’s concern is similar to that expressed by Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins, though her stance on Warner Bros.’ release schedule softened after receiving a $10 Million payday for WW84’s HBO Max release.
It’s common knowledge that public policies and reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have left small businesses and movie theaters struggling nationwide, with some chains shutting down locations en masse while still trying to recoup some expenses by exhibiting new releases, such as the aforementioned Wonder Woman 1984 or Tom Hanks’ upcoming News of the World.
Though M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t left theaters behind entirely, he seems to be exploring other options for production, as his new project Servant is an Apple TV+ exclusive series.
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