Warner Bros. Wants Christopher Nolan Back

Warner Bros. is looking to mend fences with Christopher Nolan. Variety ran an article about Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, the new co-CEOs and co-chairpeople of Warner Bros. Film Group, and while the whole piece is great and, if everything pans out the way the pair and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav say, quite hopeful about the studio’s future, the highlight is the mention of Nolan. In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, then-WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar (and Ann Sarnoff, though there’s no mention of her in the article) made the bold move to release all of Warner Bros.’ 2021 movies on HBO Max as soon as they hit theaters. That angered a lot of filmmakers, but Nolan was the most vocal, and he left Warner Bros. over it, taking his next film – the upcoming Oppenheimer – to Universal. Now, Warner Bros. is trying to make amends, presenting Nolan with a new commitment to theatrical releases, a focus on creativity and diversity of genres, lengthening theatrical windows (yes!), and, most audacious of all, a “seven-figure royalty check” for Tenet, the last of his films released through Warner Bros.

The wooing of Christopher Nolan will be interesting to watch. As a moviegoer, as long as Nolan gets to make the movie he wants, it makes no difference to me which studio distributes it. I’ve loved most of his films, and based on those stupendous trailers, Oppenheimer doesn’t look like it will suffer from having Universal’s logo on it. (And with Oppenheimer being three hours long, it’s safe to assume they didn’t hold Nolan back.) But I also think Warner Bros. was not the evil Empire filmmakers made them out to be. Movie studios were staring down the barrel of indefinite lockdowns and closed theaters, with the few open ones requiring patrons to wear masks during the movie, removing them only for brief moments to eat and drink. (God, everything was so dumb.) Anything they released was going to bomb, as Tenet – which got a traditional release – did, so they tried some outside-the-box thinking. They certainly could have handled it better, like telling their filmmakers personally instead of letting them find out via the press release. But I think that can be forgiven, and if some of the evidence Variety cites is any indication – completing some of Oppenheimer’s post-production on the Warner Bros. lot, participating in a series of filmmaker screenings of their favorite classic Warner Bros. movies – he may be amenable to coming back to the fold.

What excites me most about what De Luca, Abdy, and Zaslav say in the article isn’t specifically about Christopher Nolan, though. I love what I’m hearing about the way they want to run Warner Bros. as a movie studio. Zaslav says he wants “Romantic comedies, gangster films, horror, tentpoles, the gamut” from De Luca and Abdy, all of them being released in theaters, and that sounds wonderful. One of the biggest criticisms of modern Hollywood is its overreliance on superhero films, remakes, and other high-concept productions, and while there are other movies being made, they’re clearly not the focus. Warner Bros. wanting to diversify, to put care into different genres, is heartening. De Luca and Abdy are correct in that Warner Bros. has a long history of doing just that and using it to cultivate talent. Aside from Nolan, Warner Bros. has been home to Clint Eastwood’s directorial efforts, allowed Tim Burton to cut his teeth with his early movies, and, more recently, helped Ben Affleck launch his career as a director. This could be where the next crop of talent comes from or where the jaded old guard comes to rediscover their passions. And if it’s successful, it could lead other studios to do the same. If nothing else, Hollywood is good at emulating success.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the new updates!