Movie theaters are about to experience a major shake-up. Earlier today Warner Bros. Pictures announced that it has committed to releasing its 2021 film slate via a unique, consumer-focused distribution model. The studio will continue to exhibit the films theatrically worldwide, while adding an exclusive one month access period on the HBO Max streaming platform in the U.S. concurrent with the film’s domestic release. Meaning that HBO Max subscribers may no longer have to go to a movie theater to see a film release, given the one month window opportunity they will have to view it at home.
Anna Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studio and Networks Group, said in the statement released today; “We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. 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.”
The hybrid model was created as a strategic response to the impact of the ongoing global pandemic, particularly in the U.S. Following the one month HBO Max access period domestically, each film will leave the platform and continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories, with all customary distribution windows applying to the title.
While this move will not make the theatrical exhibition experience obsolete. It could potentially diminish the standard viewing experience offered at many movie theaters. If the model is proven to be highly successful, many other studios could follow in the same steps thus redefining the market. Paying for standard viewings in theaters will no longer be sought after – given this new streaming option, IMAX will be the more sought-after viewing experience, and movie theaters in general will have to look into business strategies to accommodate the new consumer-focused trend.
“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 Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia . “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.”
Warner Bros. Pictures Group’s 2021 expected* release slate currently includes; “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”.
The first of their films to really test out this model is “Wonder Woman 1984,” which will be released on December 25 simultaneously with a theatrical release. The film will be released in 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. All films in the 2021 slate will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR on HBO Max.
“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 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.”