Enlarge /. WarnerMedia dealt another blow to struggling movie theater owners by announcing that it will release its entire film franchise simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max in 2021.
Just a few weeks ago, we learned that Wonder Woman 1984 – whose release has been delayed several times due to continued theater closings due to the pandemic – will keep the theater's new December 25th release date. The catch: it will debut on HBO Max on the same day. Now WarnerMedia has announced that it will have a similar plan for the simultaneous launch of digital / theater for all films due for release in 2021, reports Variety. It is another big blow to cinemas still grappling with a raging pandemic that is showing no signs of slowing down, particularly in the US.
"After reviewing all of the options available and the expected level of cinema attendance through 2021, we concluded that this was the best way for WarnerMedia's film business to navigate over the next 12 months," said CEO Jason Kilar in a statement. "Our content is extremely valuable unless it's on a shelf and isn't seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, helps exhibitors and filmmakers, and improves the HBO Max experience and creates value for all."
Warner Bros. & # 39; 2021 movies will be available to HBO Max subscribers for 31 days. After that, they will only be seen in cinemas. As soon as the traditional time between theatrical release and home release has passed, the films can be rented via the usual online platforms (Amazon, iTunes or Fandango). The current list includes the little things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat, those who wish me dead, the incantation: The Devil Made Me 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.
In a statement, WarnerMedia Chairman and CEO Ann Sarnoff described the model as a "unique one-year plan" given the unprecedented challenges the ongoing coronavirus pandemic posed to the industry. This is unlikely to continue until 2022. Per Sarnoff's statement:
We live in unprecedented times that require creative solutions, including this new initiative for Warner Bros. Pictures Group. Nobody wants to bring films to the screen more than we do. We know that new content is the lifeblood of the theater show, but we need to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the US are likely to operate at reduced capacity by 2021.
With this unique one-year plan, we can support our exhibition partners with a steady pipeline of world-class films and give moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or may not be ready to return to the cinema the chance to see our amazing 2021 films. We see it as a win-win situation for film lovers and exhibitors and are very grateful to our filmmakers for working with us on this innovative answer to these circumstances.
How many cinemas can survive another year like 2020 remains open. So far only one chain has responded to the messages. An unnamed Cinemark representative told Deadline Hollywood, "Given the current operating environment, we are making last-minute booking decisions on a film basis. Currently, Warner Bros. has not provided details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films."
Unlike the Disney + strategy for Mulan, at least HBO Max subscribers don't have to pay extra to watch these films. The streaming platform charged Disney + subscribers a premium purchase of $ 30 even though it was released in theaters in areas where the streaming platform is not available. (For your information, Mulan will be available for free to all Disney + subscribers this Friday, December 4th, 2020.)
Wonder Woman 1984 competes against Disney-Pixar's animated film Soul, which launches the same day on Disney +. (It's also part of standard Disney + subscriptions.) And for those (like Ars & # 39; own Samuel Axon) who were put off by the prospect of seeing Wonder Woman in 1984 in measly 1080p with no HDR and sluggish performance Director Patty Jenkins tweeted that Wonder Woman will be the first movie streamed in 4K HDR (UltraHD) on HBO Max when it premieres in 1984. It is also streamed using Dolby Atmos audio. Hopefully that's a good sign for the digital future of the 2021 releases too.