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End of Week Production Notes 12/4/20: Warner Media Triples Down on HBO Max, Possible In-Person Oscars and More News


HBO MaxIt’s the first End of Week Production Notes for the last month of 2020, and it’s been quite a crazy week. The biggest news could have been that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences planned to hold the April 2021 Oscars ceremony in-person (more on that later), but then Warner Bros. decided to take over the news with the announcement that every single 2021 movie after Wonder Woman 1984 on December 25 of this year, will be released both theatrically and on their relatively new streamer service, HBO Max, on the exact same date.

Earlier in the week, it was decided that Doug Liman’s Lockdown, starring Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor, would just go directly to HBO Max, but two days later, Warners announced that every planned movie release for 2021 will be getting a day-and-date release in theaters and on the streamer. This is for everything from the animated Tom and Jerry to the bigger DC superhero movies like James Gunn‘s The Suicide SquadJames Wan‘s horror film Malignant, and the third Conjuring movie, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as the new decision includes movies from Denzel Washington (The Little Things in January 29, 2021, in time to get into the Oscars) and Hugh Jackman (Reminiscence, scheduled for  April 16).

Obviously, this decision might not affect below the line so much, other than the fact that many people might be watching the results of a lot of hard-working crafts like sound and cinematography in a less-than-ideal non-theatrical setting, but it also seemed like this was bound to happen based on how 2020 and the way the pandemic has changed viewing choices. HBO Max will only air the Warner Bros. movies for one month after the initial day-and-date release, and presumably, some of the movies might still remain in theaters after that.

A lot of theater owners and chains have already responded, some hoping that this leads to better deals and profit splits for those that choose to exhibit the movies, but this is a still-developing story, and we’ll have to see if Warner Bros. can work out new deals with theatrical in a similar way that Universal Pictures has. AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron was far less gregarious and not quite as ready to negotiate. “Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max startup. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense,” he said on the matter.

I certainly have a lot more to say about this decision and the general decision to shift to streaming by so many studios spending millions on movie production, but that will have to wait until later.

The Flash
The Flash (Photo: The CW)

The latest CW show to shut down production is The Flash, which went on pause after an asymptomatic crew member tested positive for COVID. As has been happening on almost a weekly basis for various productions, the protocol calls for cases like this to put the Vancouver production on hold to do proper contact tracing. All close contacts to the affected employee are currently self-isolating while the studio decides how to adjust the schedule. The Flash was one of the CW shows that had to delay the start of production due to a back-up of COVID test processing in the British Columbia labs.

Back to that Oscar news, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently stated that it planned to hold some form of its April 25, 2021, Oscar awards show in person. The news came from Variety who broke the news that the Academy was planning an in-person show at the 3400-seat Kodak Theater, though the trade quickly backtracked and changed its story to say that the Academy is “mulling options,” which will heavily rely on California and Los Angeles COVID protocols and how they might change in four months. Presumably, with a theater that large, a certain percentage of nominees and guests could attend, but it’s likely to be a far smaller number than usual. This story is also developing, and we’ll probably learn more over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.

Oscar Isaac
Oscar Isaac (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

UPDATE: Late Breaking News! Actor Oscar Isaac has been attached to play video game hero “Solid Snake” in the long-in-development Metal Gear Solid movie from Sony Pictures, which will be directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island), according to Deadline. Producer Avi Arad, who is also involved with the Uncharted movie is producing the video game adaptation.


Willow (Photo: Lucasfilm)

The Disney+ and Lucasfilm Willow series has begun to put together its cast with three young actresses in talks to play three of the show’s leads, according to DeadlineEllie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals), Cailee Spaeny (The Craft: Legacy) and Eryn Kellman (Solo) are the three young women in negotiations for the series based on the 1988 movie directed by Ron Howard.

Universal Pictures is hoping to get another Van Helsing movie off the ground after the poorly-received 2004 movie starring Hugh Jackman that barely recovered its $160 million production cost by making $300.1 million worldwide. The unrelated redo will be produced by James Wan‘s Atomic Monster shingle, and Wan has tapped Overlord director Julius Avery to helm the film.

David Lynch
David Lynch

Something we somehow missed on Monday from last week was that veteran auteur David Lynch has a new Netflix project in the works with the working title, Wisteria, as reported by Production Weekly. Produced by Sabrina S. Sutherland, the project, which could be his first film since 2006’s Inland Empire or his follow-up series to the more recent Twin Peaks: The Return, would begin shooting in May 2021 at Calvert Studios in L.A.

You can also keep track of new productions by subscribing to Below the Line‘s Production Listings.

While we’re pretty excited for people to see Carey Mulligan in Focus Features‘ Promising Young Woman on Christmas Day this year, but if that’s not enough Mulligan, then you will also be able to see her a few weeks into January in the Netflix film, The Dig, with Ralph Fiennes. You can watch that trailer below.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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