Awkward! Warner Shows Off Theatrical Slate in the Shadow of VOD Deal

Studio unveils tentpole-heavy slate and extended footage of “Harry Potter” and “The Green Lantern”

Last Updated: March 31, 2011 @ 5:59 PM

Well that was awkward.

Hours after a report broke that Warner Bros. was  moving forward on releasing premium videos-on-demand with DirecTV, the studio had to make a major presentation on its upcoming slate to the same people furious about the news — the theater owners.

Also read: 'Todd Phillips to Theater Owners: 'I'm on Your Side' About VOD'

With the box office smash "The Hangover" at his back and a new sequel on its way, director Todd Phillips was emboldened to break ranks with Warners. 

"Just for the record, I'm on your side on this video-on-demand business," Phillips said to loud applause.

Also read: James Cameron Ramps Up His Calls for Higher Frame Rates

Phillips went on to note that if he had wanted to make movies for television he would have been a TV director. 

And he wasn't the only member of the Warners team whose words resonated with theater owners.

Though David Heyman did not specifically address the issue, the "Harry Potter" producer's statement that, "I don't particularly like making films for a telephone. I like watching films on a big screen," had an added resonance with the crowd at Caesars Palace. 

The reason that Warner's presentation played at times like a throat clearing was the news that premium titles will now be available two months after their release — news that prompted a stinging rebuke from the National Assn. of Theater Owners. 

The two other studios reportedly entering into new VOD pacts with DirecTV, Fox and Universal, did not make presentations at CinemaCon, thus sparing them the balancing act.

For their part, Warner executives including Jeff Robinov and Dan Fellman avoided the elephant in the room. Yet the protestations of love for exhibitors came early and often. 

Robinov at one point said he was worried about being "redundant," before going on to praise exhibitors for being "great colleagues and partners." 

Despite the controversial premium VOD move, Robinov and Fellman were greeted warmly by the crowd, and the house was full. 

As for the films themselves, the studio has clearly moved forward aggressively on its tentpole-heavy strategy. Over the course of this year, Warner will release "Green Lantern," as well as sequels to "The Hangover" and "Sherlock Holmes." It will also go into production on "The Dark Knight Rises" and a "Superman" reboot. 

Oh, and there's a tiny art-house film called "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II." 

With the boy wizard franchise coming to an end this July, Robinov told the crowd, "our goal is to deliver more event films." 

To tease the audience, the studio previewed footage from "The Green Lantern" and "Harry Potter" and previews of the films "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and "Horrible Bosses."  It also brought "Green Lantern" duo Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, "Crazy, Stupid, Love" star Steve Carell, and "Horrible Bosses" actors Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis to the stage. 

Of "Lantern," which still had some effects work left to complete, Reynolds joked, "I do have it on good authority that the studio has every intention of finishing before the release date." 

The product clearly wasn't the problem with exhibitors who seemed genuinely thrilled with the special-effects-heavy films on the docket. However, Warner executives must have been wishing that news of their VOD strategy broke on almost any other day. 

Like, say, Friday.