Timothée Chalamet in ‘Dune.’

WarnerMedia is preparing to sever its four decades long distribution alliance with Roadshow Films, moving its theatrical releases to Universal Pictures in Australia.

The arrangement with Roadshow will terminate at the end of this year, Village Roadshow told the ASX today.

A break-up seemed unthinkable during previous regimes at the US studio, given the close business and personal relationships between Warner’s top brass and Village Roadshow’s Robert Kirby and Graham Burke.

However it’s been clear that WarnerMedia has been under new management, with no allegiances to long-serving executives or staff, or corporate memory, since parent company AT&T installed Jason Kilar as CEO.

In August there was a brutal cull at the senior level, including Jeffrey R. Schlesinger, president, Warner Bros. worldwide television distribution; Ron Sanders, president, worldwide theatrical distribution and home entertainment; Bob Greenblatt, chairman, WarnerMedia entertainment and direct-to-consumer; and Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS and truTV.

VRL said today that, after overheads, the pre-tax contribution from WB theatrical releases was not material to the company’s financial results in fiscal 2020 and it does not expect any impairment or write-down of assets.

Nor would it have any impact on the $468 million sale of VRL to funds managed by BGH Capital or its licence to operate the Warner Bros Movie World theme park.

Roadshow will continue to handle indie films from suppliers including FilmNation (in which VRL is an investor), Village Roadshow Pictures, STX and Australian producers.

It added that Warner has not yet indicated whether its home entertainment distribution contract, which is due to expire on December 31, will continue.

Roadshow Films CEO Joel Pearlman said: “It has been an honour to release so many incredible Warner Bros. titles over the years and we are proud of the work that we have achieved together.

“Roadshow remains committed to partnering with our other studio suppliers and continuing to champion the Australian film industry via our strong upcoming slate.”

With 15 or more WB titles vanishing from the slate next year, there may well be job losses at Roadshow Films, although conceivably at least some could move across to Universal, which added staff when it took over distributing eOne’s films.

If the date holds, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune will launch via Roadshow on December 17. Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides, whose family leaves the oceanic world of Caladan to take over scorching Arrakis, where they become prey to their brutal rival House Harkonnen.

So Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984, which is scheduled for December 26, will bring down the curtain on the Roadshow relationship.

The first Warner release via Universal will probably be New Line’s South Australian-shot Mortal Kombat reboot, directed by Simon McQuoid and produced by James Wan, on January 14.

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  1. This is more disappointing news for smaller cinemas. Universal is historically aggressive towards smaller cinemas restricting access to many films to 5 weeks after the majors. see https://data.smallcinemaowners.com.au site to analyse different releases. With the shrinking windows and covid effect of lowered attendances, add 5 week restriction on top. It does not bode will for the culture of cinema in Australia.
    I would compare this to going out to a restaurant district and the only shops open are McDonalds and KFC. The smaller boutique locations all go out of business as they can only get out of date produce they cannot sell.

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