WarnerMedia sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry in early December 2020, when the company announced that it would be simultaneously releasing all of its upcoming 2021 movies in select theatres and on HBO Max (via The Verge). Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — and with the majority of movie theaters in the United States unable to be filled to capacity for the foreseeable future — several companies have experimented with moving big releases straight to streaming. The live recording of Hamilton, Artemis Fowl, and Soul, for example, all were released exclusively on Disney+, while Mulan was available to rent on the platform for $30.
With WarnerMedia’s announcement came the news that viewers would soon be able to watch 17 movies, including the likes of Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Dune, King Richard, and The Matrix 4, right in their very own homes. But this decision to release these films in this manner hasn’t come without pushback. In order to prevent the news from leaking, top WarnerMedia brass reportedly kept major agencies and talent management companies in the dark until right before the news dropped, per The New York Times.
Naturally, some who weren’t consulted — including representatives for Keanu Reeves, who will of course star in one of the company’s biggest 2021 releases, the highly-anticipated fourth installment of The Matrix series — are not at all pleased.
Warner Brothers vs. Hollywood agents
After WarnerMedia’s game-changing announcement, reports circulated that the only talent consulted were Wonder Woman 1984 star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins (via The New York Times). Warner Bros. reportedly spoke with Gadot’s agents at William Morris Endeavor and Jenkins’ at CAA in secret, asking them to get on board with the plan to release the superhero flick in select theatres and HBO Max on Christmas Day. In return, the duo each reportedly received over $10 million to make up for losses incurred by this change.
Representatives for Keanu Reeves — and other mega-stars, like Angelina Jolie, Will Smith, and Denzel Washington — were curious as to why their clients didn’t receive this type of treatment and weren’t similarly compensated. “With this move, [Warner Bros.] alienated the very talent they have worked so hard to attract,” founder of the MoffettNathanson media research firm, Michael Nathanson, said in part. With talk of potential litigation being thrown around these talent agencies, the outlet reports, “Some people started to angrily refer to the studio as Former Bros.” Yikes.
For his part, Reeves (perhaps unsurprisingly) has yet to publicly comment on the situation. The Always Be My Maybe star did, however, previously tease The Matrix 4 to BBC’s The One Show as “a beautiful script that is a love story, it’s inspiring … and it has some great action.”
While it’s impossible to know what implications WarnerMedia’s decision will have on Hollywood at large, one thing is for sure: A little more advanced notice probably wouldn’t hurt.
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