Warner Bros shook the film industry last week when announcing its 2021 slate of movies – including Dune, Matrix 4 and The Suicide Squad – would launch on HBO Max simultaneously with cinemas in the US.
The unprecedented move, in response to the chaos caused by the pandemic, was seen by many as a hammer blow to the already ailing cinema industry.
Nolan, one of Hollywood’s biggest directors and who has worked with Warner Bros since 2002’s Insomnia, described HBO Max as “the worst streaming service” and said his first reaction to last week’s announcement was “disbelief”.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter the filmmaker said: “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.
“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.”
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Launched by WarnerMedia in May to compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+, the HBO Max streaming service had 8.6 million subscriberss of September, lagging far behind its competitors.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, he added: “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. So, there’s a lot of controversy.”
He added: “It’s very, very, very, very messy. A real bait and switch. Yeah, it’s sort of not how you treat filmmakers and stars and people who, these guys have given a lot for these projects. They deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work.”
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Nolan, a passionate advocate of the cinematic experience, released his time-bending espionage thriller Tenet in cinemas in August and spoke of the importance of attracting fans back into theatres following months of closures.
The film has so far grossed a reported 360 million dollars (£270 million) at the global box office, widely seen as a disappointment.
Warner Bros said it had no comment when approached by the PA news agency.