Ramping up its production programme as it prepares to enter the streaming wars, WarnerMedia has signed Steven Soderbergh to a three-year deal to develop content for its upcoming direct-to-consumer service HBO Max as well as sister cable channel HBO.
The deal will be exclusive for television projects and first-look for features and will kick off with HBO Max feature Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest. WarnerMedia said Let Them All Talk will launch on HBO Max sometime this year, but did not say whether the film will also get a theatrical release. The streaming service itself is set to launch this spring.
Asked during the company’s Television Critics Association (TCA) session whether previously announced Melissa McCarthy comedy Superintelligence and other films made for the service will also get theatrical releases, Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max, said: “We’re looking at each movie and talking to each filmmaker.”
HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly added: “We’ve just stuck our toe in the water on the feature front and you can expect more details to come on that, in conjunction with Warner Bros, in the coming weeks, as we formulate that business.
“We’re not going to be in the volume business by any means, but we’re going to make a really healthy batch of feature films, some of which will be Tiffany and may have an awards limited release and others - most - will go direct to the service.”
The Soderbergh deal was announced during WarnerMedia’s sessions at this week’s TCA press event in Los Angeles, where the company also announced a greenlight for The Uninhabitable Earth, a climate change-themed anthology drama series written by Adam McKay, who recently closed his own five-year, overall TV deal with HBO and HBO Max.
Soderbergh has been making films with Warner Bros Pictures since 2001 and for HBO he has directed limited series Mosaic and Emmy-winning TV movie Behind The Candelabra. For HBO multiplex channel Cinemax he was director and executive producer on period drama series The Knick.
In a statement, Soderbergh said four factors drew him to making the deal: “One, I have a history with both HBO and Warner Bros; two, my definition of a good product, a good process, and a good working culture is shared by the WarnerMedia family; three, the wide range of potential outlets aligns with my range of interests, and four: I get to witness and participate in the building of something new at a very large scale. Oh, and there is a financial aspect, so that’s probably five.”
HBO Max head of original content Sarah Aubrey added: “Steven is a groundbreaking filmmaker who not only tells unique, irresistible stories, but is also a master of so many genres. In many ways, he is the anti-algorithm constantly surprising, never predictable and his career is living proof that one gifted filmmaker can impact our culture again and again. I can’t wait for the projects that we’re working on together to premiere on HBO Max.”
The Uninhabitable Earth, inspired by a book and New York Magazine article by David Wallace-Wells, will tell stand-alone fictional stories covering a range of genres and possible futures that could result from the rapid warming of the planet. As well as writing, McKay will direct the first episode. The series will be produced by Paul Lee’s company Wiip.
HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly described McKay as “one of the rare artists who can deliver a pointed, impactful message in a piece of great entertainment. I can’t wait to see what he does with this material, as there is no timelier and more relevant message than a wake-up call on climate change and the growing impact on our lives.”
McKay added: “I’ve been chomping at the bit to get this show going. I’m very happy that HBO Max stepped up and made the commitment. There’s obviously no subject as vast and daunting.”