Christopher Nolan’s Next Movie to Be Made by Universal, Not Warner Bros.


For the first time since his 2001 film Memento, filmmaker Christopher Nolan will be making a movie that will not be distributed by Warner Bros. Per Deadline, Universal Pictures has landed the rights to finance and distribute Nolan’s next movie, which will focus on J. Robert Oppenheimer‘s role in the development of the atomic bomb. Nolan wrote the screenplay himself and will direct, and with Universal coming out the victor the film now has a greenlight with an eye towards starting production in the first quarter of 2022.

Ever since Insomina, Nolan’s films have been at least partially distributed by Warner Bros. Even when Nolan signed on to make the Paramount Pictures project Interstellar, he ensured that Warner Bros. was cut in on the deal as the international distributor in order to make his home studio happy. But that all changed with WB’s decision to release its 2021 movies day-and-date in theaters and on its streaming service HBO Max. When the move was announced, Nolan did not mince words, taking particular umbrage with WB’s decision not to tell any of its filmmakers ahead of announcing the decision. He further went on to call HBO Max “the worst streaming service,” (it’s absolutely not) and clearly the move soured him enough that when it came time to make his next movie, he went elsewhere.

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Deadline notes that Universal, MGM, and Sony Pictures were the final contenders to finance and distribute this new WWII movie, but not Warner Bros. Clearly Nolan was still peeved at the studio’s decision, despite the fact that Warner Bros. is now getting out from under AT&T’s corporate thumb and they’ve already made clear that in 2022, films will be in theaters for a minimum of 45 days before hitting HBO Max. And also despite the fact that Warner Bros. bent over backwards to give Nolan’s 2020 film Tenet an exclusive theatrical release in the middle of a pandemic.

John David Washington and Christopher Nolan on the set of Tenet

Image via Warner Bros.

And while some may say, “Wait a minute, doesn’t Universal have Peacock?” the studio has actually eschewed throwing most of its films onto the NBCUniversal streaming service. For example, F9 hit theaters back in June and is still not streaming on Peacock, having enjoyed a lengthy exclusive theatrical run. No doubt a stipulation of Nolan’s deal with Universal ensures a theatrically exclusive exhibition, and perhaps even a longer engagement before this new film is eligible for streaming.

Whatever the case, it’s the end of an era. Warner Bros. has long had a reputation as a filmmaker friendly studio, having been loyal to directors like Nolan and Clint Eastwood in the past. It’ll be interesting to see how Universal handles Nolan’s next movie, which is sure to be both a critical and commercial success like most of his movies. And with Nolan going back to the WWII well after Dunkirk put him squarely in the Oscar circle, he may end up finding Oscar success with this new studio.

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