When Warner Bros. made the decision to give its entire 2021 lineup simultaneous HBO Max releases, many people were thrilled. The prospect of watching big blockbusters at home the day they come out is somewhat unprecedented, and many HBO Max subscribers couldn’t believe the bargain they were getting. That said, not everyone was happy about the news, particularly Legendary Entertainment, who were prepping Godzilla Vs. Kong for the silver screen.
One of the more controversial elements of the announcement was the realization that Warner Bros. had not made much effort to warn anyone in advance. Quite a few contracts, studios, and actors were caught off guard by the sudden change in release plans, and not everyone was happy about it. Legendary Entertainment in particular was very unhappy, with sources suggesting the company was willing to sue if a new agreement wasn’t reached.
It isn’t often publicized, but contracts between studios and publishers are often more complicated than flat payments and straightforward purchases. The revenue that studios, actors, and companies are entitled to can vary heavily depending on the legal paperwork, and some actors/directors with enough clout can negotiate for things like a percentage of every ticket sold, or having most of their payment based on theater revenue.
So when Warner Bros. announced that everything was going to streaming, quite a few individuals and companies suddenly had a lot of contracts that didn’t look so great anymore. In effect, Warner Bros. had seriously altered the potential earnings of a lot of people without any warning, and Legendary Entertainment was ready to drag them to court if that’s what it took.
Thankfully, however, recent reports indicate that, at least for Godzilla Vs. Kong, a new deal is coming close to being finished. The Hollywood Reporter says that the two companies are in the process of making a deal that will avoid a messy court battle for both Godzilla and the upcoming Dune, though the later is a slightly more complicated negotiation.
While it seems Godzilla Vs. Kong will be able to hit HBO Max and theaters without much issue, Dune is still up in the air. Denis Villeneuve has discussed his desire for an exclusive theatrical release, and it is unclear whether he will accept a streaming option with no compromises. Whether Warner Bros. will be able to stick to its guns on the day and date streaming options remains to be seen, and the exact nature of the contracts behind those releases is still in a state of flux.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter