Warner Bros announced on Thursday that after DC’s Wonder Woman 1984, all their 2021-slated movies will release on HBO Max as well as in theatres for US audiences on the same day. The announcement comes in the backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Only 50% of US theatres are currently open.
Jason Kilar, CEO, WarnerMedia, said in a statement that the decision was the best way forward for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months. Films will be released in theatres and on HBO Max in the US with an exclusive one-month access period on the streaming platform. After the one-month access period, the film will continue to run in theatres both domestically and globally. At this point, other distribution windows will be able to apply for the films.
In total, 17 movies will now be released under this hybrid model. These include, The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho and Matrix 4.
This model, which Kilar called a “unique, consumer-focused distribution model” comes as a strategic response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Kilar further said, “…we are….giving [consumers] the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone.”
Ann Sarnoff, the CEO and Chair of WarnerMedia Studios, said that realistically speaking, theatres would continue to operate at a reduced capacity and the situation needed to be balanced. Calling the move a win-win decision, she said, “With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films.”
Last month, Warner Bros had announced a simultaneous release for DC’s Wonder Woman 1984, a superhero film starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pines, in US theatres and on HBO Max for US audiences. The movie will be available on HBO Max on the day of its theatrical release at no extra cost for the first month of the film’s release.
According to Reuters, soon after Warner Bros’ Thursday announcement, shares of AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theatre operator, fell almost 16 percent. Shares of theatre chain Cinemark also dropped about 22 percent. Only about 50 percent of theatres in the US have reopened currently, and almost all major films have delayed their releases.