Hollywood is forever changed today as Warner Bros has altered the landscape of the film industry with the news that all of their 2021 feature films will debut on HBO Max and in movie theaters simultaneously!
In a move triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has left theaters shut down around the world, WB ups the ante on earlier moves made by Universal and Disney. Earlier this year, Trolls: World Tour became the first major studio film to premiere on PVOD and skip theaters which caused a massive feud between Universal and theater chains. Disney then made the corresponding move to debut Mulan on their streaming service for an upcharge fee while the Pixar film Soul will stream on Christmas Day at no additional fee.
Warner Bros move follows the announcement that WONDER WOMAN 1984 would stream on December 25th while also being available on the big screen in markets where multiplexes are open for business.
The enormity of this decision will surely be felt in the coming hours and days and movie theater chains will be dealt a heavy blow. Fans should be happy to know that whether the vaccine for COVID-19 works out sooner rather than later, they will be able to watch brand new Warner Bros films on HBO Max for the first month of theatrical release. The movies will then be theatrical only for the remainder of their run.
The WB slate for 2021 features Denzel Washington’s 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.
Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group (of which Warner Bros. is part) and Jason Kilar, CEO, WarnerMedia, released the following statement alongside today’s historic news:
We’re living in unprecedented times that call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Sarnoff. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021. 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. We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.
After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months,” said Kilar. “More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them 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. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.
This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners, and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We have a fantastic, wide-ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able to get these movies in front of audiences around the world. And, as always, we’ll support all of our releases with innovative and robust marketing campaigns for their theatrical debuts, while highlighting this unique opportunity to see our films domestically via HBO Max as well.
Stay tuned as this develops as we anticipate this may cause major decisions to be made by rival studios including Universal and Disney who also have significant films set to debut in the coming year.