The blockbuster director has championed movie theaters and traditional theatrical releases this year amid the coronavirus pandemic

By Nigel Smith and Alexia Fernández
December 07, 2020 08:46 PM
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Christopher Nolan
| Credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty

Christopher Nolan is speaking out about Warner Bros. seismic plan to debut its entire 2021 slate of films on HBO Max and in movie theaters.

The Tenet director, 50, spoke to PEOPLE on Monday, saying the shift in gears for the major movie studio has "upset a lot of people."

"Because other than the fact that it's not a very rational business decision," he continued, "the way in which they did it — they didn't tell any of the filmmakers or any of the movie stars involved in those projects for 2021. These were people who spent years engaged on projects that were intended to be releases for the big screen and for home video worldwide."

Last week, Warner Bros. announced its decision to debut its roster of 2021 films simultaneously in movie theaters as well as on its new streaming site, HBO Max. The films, ranging from The Matrix 4 to In the Heights, will be available to subscribers exclusively on the platform for a month before leaving the streamer and being solely available to watch in movie theaters.

Nolan has championed movie theaters and traditional theatrical releases this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"From my point of view, it's all a bit irrelevant," Nolan adds of the Hollywood backlash to the HBO Max deal. "I mean, the people at the studios, everybody knows that longer-term, people love going to the movies. They're going to go back to movie theaters when it's possible to do so."

Nolan's own film, Tenet, was released in movie theaters in early September over Labor Day weekend after it was pushed back several times due to the pandemic. The film grossed $20 million domestically in its opening weekend and over $350 million worldwide.

The Matrix 4, Dune and Suicide Squad 2 will debut on HBO Max and in theaters in 2021
| Credit: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock; Chiabella James; C Barius/DC/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

He continues, "We've already seen that in other countries with our own film, which grossed more than $300 million in international markets. People love going to the movies and long term that's what's going to be the case."

"I think there's a sort of jockeying for short-term advantage or trying to impress Wall Street. I don't know," he says, before adding, "I'm very, very optimistic about the longer-term health of the movie business. 2019 was the biggest year ever for movies."

"I think [audiences] will come roaring back when it's possible, but like so many aspects of our lives and businesses and so forth, a lot of things are on hold right now because they have to be."

Warner Bros.' Wonder Woman 1984 will debut on HBO Max and in theaters on Christmas Day. It'll be its first major release on the platform, but will be followed by other major releases next year such as Dune, the Sopranos movie prequel The Many Saints of Newark, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Space Jam: A New Legacy and the sports drama King Richard, about the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, and starring Will Smith.

Tenet is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on Dec. 15.