Editor’s Note: Unfortunately disruption has made this edition of The Badger a little different. Unavoidable circumstances meant that this edition was delayed. Consequently, some of these articles are a little older and we haven’t been able to get the newest stories to you this time. However, we think that it is fair that those who wrote great articles have them published, and these important stories are read by you.
Words by Michael Dickinson, Staff Writer
Village Roadshow, which co-financed The Matric Resurrections, is suing Warner Bros over the studio’s decision to release the film both in cinemas and on the HBO Max streaming service on the same day.
Village Roadshow claims this move sacrificed the latest Matrix movie’s box office earnings in order to sell subscriptions for HBO Max, owned by Warner Bros. parent company Warner Media. HBO Max is not currently available in the UK.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Warner Bros took the unprecedented strategy of releasing all their 2021 cinema releases for streaming on HBO Max on the same day. Pre-pandemic, the major Hollywood studios had an agreement with cinema chains for a 90-day window of exclusive cinema release before films were released anywhere else.
The Matrix Resurrections released on 22 December 2021, in third place at the US box office. It has grossed $37 million in the US and $153 million worldwide. This was less than any of the previous Matrix films and, as Village Roadshow argues, considerably less than the exclusive cinema release of blockbuster hit Spider-Man: No Way Home released just a week prior to The Matrix Resurrections.
The Matrix Resurrections’ release was moved forward to December 2021 from a previously announced April 1st 2022 release, in a move that Village Roadshow claims was an effort to bolster HBO Max’s end of year release schedule at the expense of the potentially increased box office of an exclusive 2022 cinema release.
Warner Bros. issued a statement claiming that Village Roadshow was attempting to distract from a separate arbitration case Warner Bros. had brought against them the previous week.
Warner Bros. said they were confident the case would be ruled in their favour.
This is only the latest problem that Warner Bros. has faced with their release strategy, which has been unpopular with their collaborators from the beginning.
Upon the announcement of the strategy in December 2020, Dune director Denis Villeneuve, whose film was included in the strategy, denounced it in an open letter in Variety as showing ‘no love for cinema, nor for the audience’.
Soon after the initial announcement Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong co-financer Legendary Entertainment was reported to be preparing legal action against Warner Bros. over similar concerns to Village Roadshow, although a lawsuit never materialised.
Additionally, the move cost Warner Bros. their long-time collaboration with hit director and enthusiastic cinema advocate, Christopher Nolan. Warner Bros. have produced all of Nolan’s films since 2002, a collaboration which has created hits such as The Dark Knight, Inception and Dunkirk.
Nolan was not involved in any of the films included in the new release strategy but strongly criticised the move and the studio’s lack of consultation with the filmmakers involved. Nolan is now set to direct his next film with Universal Pictures, who agreed to release it exclusively in cinemas for at least 90 days.
Other studios including Disney, Universal and Paramount have tried similar simultaneous streaming and cinema release strategies for some of their 2021 films.
Disney recently saw a similar controversy when Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against them, alleging that she lost out from diminished box office returns on Black Widow due to Disney’s decision to release it for paid rental on their Disney+ streaming service alongside its cinema release. The two parties came to an undisclosed settlement.
Warner Bros. announced in March last year that they would end their same-day cinema and streaming release strategy at the end of 2021. Their 2022 US cinema releases are in line with the new industry standard 45-day exclusive cinema release window, as audiences continue to return to cinemas.