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WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said he rushed the communication of his decision to place Warner Bros.’ 2021 film slate on HBO Max and should’ve taken “the better part of a month” to speak with the more than 170 individuals impacted by the day-and-date shift.
“I will be the first one to say, and the responsibility rests on my shoulders, that, in hindsight, we should have taken the better part of a month to have over 170 conversations — which is the number of participants that are in our 2021 film slate,” Kilar said Tuesday at Vox Media’s Code Conference. “We tried to do that in a compressed period of time, less than a week, because of course there was going to be leaks there was going to be everybody opining on whether we should do this or not do this.”
Last December, WarnerMedia announced that its 17-film slate for this year, which included tentpoles like The Suicide Squad, Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong, would be on HBO Max for a one-month window that began the same day as the film’s theatrical release. The decision quickly drew the ire of filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Patty Jenkins, and Warner Bros. was compelled to shell out fees in the millions to placate big-name talent who were unhappy with the day-and-date shift.
From Kilar’s perspective, Warner’s reaction to the fallout was successful — even as Warner Bros. has committed to a 45-day exclusive theatrical release window for 2022.
“We said from the start that we were going to treat every single film as a blockbuster, from an economic perspective, for participants, that we were going to be fair and generous, we were going to do the right thing,” Kilar said. “The good news is we did, and we worked our tail ends off to do that. And we’re now in a very good situation.”
When asked by moderator Stephanie Ruhle about Netflix’s reported $18 billion content spend in 2021, Kilar replied that WarnerMedia will spend “north of $18 [billion] both this year and next year.”
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