As we enter Oscar season (the best season), it’s a good time to reflect on what the film industry has been doing.
It would appear that big budget filmmaking is truly pivoting away from mainstream cinema to mainstream streaming. More than ever, successful Hollywood actors no longer consider television to be a second class medium, but instead the place to make and propagate their name.
This is unsurprising in a post-Covid world, but the transition has left a few messes behind it. Namely, unhappy cinemas and production companies whose agreements were based on revenue generated “the old fashioned way.”
There is new litigation this week about the latest Matrix movie, as Warner Media, who treated us to the likes of Game of Thrones and Westworld, have a relatively new streaming service on the other side of the pond called HBO Max.
As movie studios were unable to release their pricey assets in cinemas, they needed a new distribution method. Therefore, to avoid the new iteration of their IP going stale whilst waiting for cinemas to open up again after Covid, they decided to release them on their shiny new streaming services.
This works for the studio, particularly when the streaming service is part of their portfolio. However, it rarely works for those whose agreements didn’t envisage a pandemic or that they would be distributed in any other way than through packed cinemas.
In this new dispute, some serious and charged allegations have been made - "WB’s sole purpose in moving the release date of The Matrix Resurrections forward was to create a desperately needed wave of year-end HBO Max premium subscriptions from what it knew would be a blockbuster film, despite knowing full well that it would decimate the film’s box office revenue and deprive Village Roadshow of any economic upside that WB and its affiliates would enjoy. It is said it has "eviscerate[d] the significant value of Village Roadshow’s intellectual property in order to prop up the new HBO Max streaming service."
Warner Brothers have said in response that “this is a frivolous attempt by Village Roadshow to avoid their contractual commitment to participate in the arbitration that we commenced against them last week. We have no doubt that this case will be resolved in our favor."
This is not the first dispute of this nature and surely will not be the last. One only needs to look at the recently resolved dispute between Scarlett Johansson and Disney to understand.
The trailer is here to watch (because why not?): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ix7TUGVYIo
Village Roadshow Entertainment Group sued Warner Bros. on Monday for breach of contract over the studio’s decision to release Matrix Resurrections simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters.