Abrams WarnerMedia

Last week, it was announced that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams signed a contract to move his Bad Robot Productions over to WarnerMedia, where he’ll write, produce, and direct films and TV shows for Warner Bros., HBO, and the upcoming streaming service HBO Max. Now some additional information has emerged about the terms of that deal, which explain why Abrams rejected a reported $500 million offer from Apple and chose to take much less money to work with WarnerMedia instead. Read the details below.

J.J. Abrams isn’t in the film business – he’s in the empire business. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Abrams and his wife and co-CEO Katie McGrath are “interested in turning Bad Robot into a consumer brand,” and Apple was willing to shell out some serious cash to lock them down. The tech giant was prepared to pay more than $500 million for Abrams to put Bad Robot under their roof, but there were several issues that caused the filmmaker to take a pay cut down to $250 million and choose WarnerMedia.

Apple wanted complete exclusivity, and under their proposed terms, Abrams would not have been able to make films for any other studios or sell shows to other television networks. That’s a problem for someone as wide-ranging as Abrams, who currently has his hands in projects at several different companies, including Disney and Paramount. Abrams also reportedly didn’t like the fact that Apple has yet to commit to a theatrical distribution model for its original films, and since Abrams is a huge proponent of the theatrical experience, it sounds like he didn’t want to risk any of his new movies debuting on the streaming service.

The Hollywood Reporter also says Apple’s lack of intellectual property was a “concern” about a possible deal with Bad Robot. Abrams himself has indicated that he’s no longer interested in doing reboots or remakes, so if existing IP was a big factor in this decision, I’m wondering if its more for Bad Robot in general instead of for Abrams specifically as a writer or director. Unless he’s had a change of heart, I can’t see him rebooting some random WarnerMedia property like, say, the Looney Tunes, but I could easily envision the Bad Robot Games branch of his company bringing that property to life for next generation players.

Even though the deal with WarnerMedia is for much less money up front, they can still sell projects to third parties, and there’s still room to make plenty of cash in the long run: THR says “Abrams has the ability to create new features that could see his new deal reach the billions if he’s able to create a successful franchise.” That’s billions, with an “s.”

Like I said: Abrams is in the empire business.

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