Hollywood is still caught in the middle of the fallout from WarnerMedia’s decision to stream their upcoming movies on HBO Max on the same day as their theatrical release. Even as audiences have rejoiced over the opportunity to watch the latest films in the safety of their homes, several filmmakers and industry insiders have blasted Warner over taking such a drastic decision without consulting them. In an interview with Variety, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar explained why, despite the criticisms, he is feeling optimistic about his company’s new strategy.
“In order for this to work, either the box office needs to be there, or if the box office is not there, clearly HBO needs to carry some weight there. I feel very good about that because, if we’ve done nothing else, we’ve kept our ear to the ground in terms of fans and fan behavior. We’re cautiously optimistic…We’re going to be measuring this two ways, both box office and the subscription consumer behavior through [HBO] Max. We’re in the middle of a [global health emergency]. I can’t wave that away. But in terms of how we’re trying to approach this financially and economically with the folks that we partner with, we are endeavoring to be generous at every turn.”
The biggest source of contention regarding Warner’s new distribution strategy is that the studio did not consult with the filmmakers and production partners they teamed up with to produce their content. But according to Kilar, Warner executives have made outreach to as many as 700 people to discuss the plan.
“The vast majority of those conversations have been very, very positive because as people are able to hear from us, and to be able to be taken through it, and to be able to have questions answered, ultimately people feel good about that. We all want a healthy industry, we all want storytellers to be compensated fairly and ideally generously, and we ultimately want studios to be healthy, too. So this is all of us doing the best we can.”
It is still too early to tell whether Warner’s new streaming release strategy will turn out to be a masterstroke, or the studio has shot itself in the foot by alienating their creative partners and gutting the cinema halls business industry. Kilar is aware of the importance of the next few months in his company’s history but is confident in the consumer data regarding HBO Max.
“I see this as a defining moment for WarnerMedia. I really do because there’s a lot of spotlights on us right now and how we conduct ourselves. I feel very good about the steps we’re taking. We’ve gone from having 4 million HBO linear subscribers activate and spend time with the HBO Max environment, to then going to 8 million on a quarterly basis. We’ve grown 50% in just the last 68 days in terms of those activations of HBO linear subs. So when you look at those absolute numbers it’s hard to not be super-excited about it.”
This news originated at Variety.