Warner Bros devises new bonus scheme for HBO Max movies

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman 1984
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Warner Bros has come up with a new agreement to keep filmmakers happy, as it sends theatrical releases simultaneously to HBO Max.

One of the issues for filmmakers seeing their movies go from a big-screen-only rollout to the day-and-date release plan we’re hearing about with, for example, Warner Bros. plans for HBO Max in 2021, is the loss of a cash bonus that would triggered by certain box office results.


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The idea is that certain parties would receive a pay-out on the occasion of their movie hitting a certain box office score. According to a new report from Bloomberg, this milestone figure has now been halved – and could be cut further still if yet more cinemas are closed as a pandemic precaution.

For example then, if John Q. Blamblam was told they’d get a million bucks when Pineapple Man: Endgame hit $400 million gross at the box office, now the target is just $200 million.

This seems to be an additional pay-out, on top of the fee HBO Max is paying Warner Bros for each film’s 31-day SVOD window. That payment will apparently be shared not only with profit participants, but cast and crew. All of the cast and crew? No idea, but it sounds massively unlikely.

I guess one question is if a 50% cut in qualifying BO is a fair or even realistic adjustment. Wonder Woman 1984 drew something like $36 million worldwide on its opening weekend – surely we’d have seen something far in excess of $72 million under ‘normal’ circumstances? Is Warner Bros’ 50% cut far too small?

Well, all of this is obviously imperfect, but desperate times call for desperate measures. There’s certainly no sense in throwing open cinemas and pretending everything’s okay. At the same time, the issue isn’t just a financial one.

Whatever the bonus pay-out situation is, there’s no getting away from the disappointment filmmakers will be feeling over films which will now be very little-seen in the medium they were truly intended for: projected at a huge scale for group audiences, gathered in auditoria.

Of course, day-and-date releases are not to blame for that. Putting a film on SVOD doesn’t mean it can’t be in thousands of cinemas across the land. Obviously enough, closing cinemas is what means a film can only play in a limited number of cinemas. And closing cinemas when there’s a hugely transmissible, life-ending virus going around seems to be the sensible thing to do, to say the least.

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