In an interview Monday with Deadline, “Godzilla vs. Kong” director Adam Wingard talked about the unique position of having his film test the waters of Warner Bros.’ 2021 HBO Max strategy.
The big-budget kaiju showdown — the latest in Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s series of “Monsterverse” films — debuts in theaters and on HBO Max on Wednesday. It is one of the most prominent films to premiere on the service as part of Warner Bros.’ controversial decision to make its entire 2021 slate immediately available for streaming in order to circumvent lost theater revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I went through a whole saga,” Wingard told Deadline of his reaction to the film’s same-day release on both big and small screens. “If you’d asked me in December, it would have been a different answer. The day HBO Max surprised all of us, it was December 3, my birthday. Here I am, going out of town to celebrate, and I get a text from my agent, Dan Rabinow. Immediately incoming: announcement that all WarnerMedia titles are going to HBO Max. I was like, ‘What the hell?’”
The decision garnered similar criticism from other moviemakers, most notably “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” director Christopher Nolan, a firm advocate of the theater experience who blasted the studio for making a hasty decision that he said made “no economic sense.”
Wingard, whose previous films were smaller productions like the 2014 thriller “The Guest” and the 2017 Netflix adaptation of the Japanese anime “Death Note,” said that the news from Warner Bros. initially “devastated” him.
“This was my first big movie, a big opportunity,” Wingard said. “More than that, this is a movie that is meant to be seen on the big screen. If any movie is that, it’s ‘Godzilla vs. Kong.’ You want to fill up the size of the screen, this is the one to do it with.”
“I was depressed, upset, sad,” he added. “I couldn’t be mad at them given the circumstances, but I was happy when Christopher Nolan spoke up on behalf of the filmmakers. That meant a lot to me.”
However, Wingard said he had a “change of heart” in the passing months and realized that “if studios don’t feel comfortable putting things out because they won’t make money through the theatrical experience,” they’ll just keep pushing back release dates, which would also be no good for cinema.
He added that the staggering response to the first “Godzilla vs. Kong” trailer, which was released in January and has since received over 77 million views and 2 million likes, also helped ease his worries.
“We hit record numbers on trailer views, fans were putting out reaction videos,” Wingard said, later adding, “It was special because we’d been deprived of blockbuster cinema in 2020, and finally, people were getting their first look at the biggest, craziest popcorn movie you could imagine. People were so excited, losing their minds, giggling, having a blast. It made me very emotional, and I don’t cry much.”
Wingard added that even though he didn’t want the cinema experience to ever completely die, “people just need for movies to come out again.”
“The measurement for success is slightly altered, but I’m looking at a successful movie here, and that’s all I ever wanted in the first place,” he said.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” currently looks poised for major success, with generally positive reviews and a whopping $123 million box office debut overseas — the largest international opening of a Hollywood film during the COVID-19 pandemic.