Although we’ve certainly become accustomed to some unorthodox release strategies over the past year thanks to COVID-19, the cinematic world was still dealt a bit of a shock when Warner Bros. announced earlier today that they would be releasing their entire 2021 slate simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. It’s a grand move for this strange new world, but not everyone is happy about it.
AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron responded to the big announcement and it’s clear that he’s not pleased, saying that WarnerMedia will be sacrificing a “considerable” profit if they move forward with these plans.
These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, Wonder Woman 1984, being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height. However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theatre business is expected to recover.
“Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up,” Aron continued. “As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business. We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.” It remains to be seen what the following year will bring, even with vaccines rolling out, but Aron is expecting that “moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry.“
When it was first announced that Wonder Woman 1984 would be the first Warner Bros. film to release simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, AMC said that they were “fully on board” with the plan. “For many months, AMC has been in active and deep dialogue with Warner Brothers to figure out how best this cinematic blockbuster could be seen at AMC Theatres in these unprecedented times,” Aron said at the time. “Given that atypical circumstances call for atypical economic relationships between studios and theatres, and atypical windows and releasing strategies, AMC is fully on board for Warner Brothers’ announcement today.” Although one film released in this fashion may have been okay, it’s clear that AMC was caught by surprise by the studio’s plans; in fact, Deadline says that most major exhibitors only received a heads up from WarnerMedia an hour before the plans were announced to the public.