Every 2021 Warner Bros. movie will be shown simultaneously on HBO Max and in US cinemas, the studio said on Thursday. Two weeks ago, when his mother WarnerMedia decided to release Wonder Woman in 1984 – a major superhero title forecast to gross in a billion dollars at the box office – everyone thought it was a one-off on streaming and in theaters. But that was just the beginning. Warner Bros. is streaming several potential billion dollar titles (if not delayed) including James Gunn’s soft reboot, The Suicide Squad, Keanu Reeves-run The Matrix 4, and Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi franchise starter Dune.
And that’s not all. Warner Bros. ‘ The expected film program for 2021 includes the crime thriller The Little Things with Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. Judas and the Black Messiah starring Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, a live-action / animated Tom & Jerry, the monster-driven Godzilla vs. Kong, the video game adaptation Mortal Kombat, Angelina Jolie-Led Those Who Wish Me Death, horror sequel The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, incidental music adaptation In The Heights, LeBron James-led sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy, science fiction Drama Reminiscence by Westworlds Lisa Joy, James Wan Horror Malignant, The Sopranos Prequel The Many Saints of Newark, Tennis Williams Biopic King Richard and Clint Eastwood’s neo-western Cry Macho.
That’s a full line-up, and signals WarnerMedia’s intention to expand HBO Max – the streaming service that launched in May and is currently exclusive to the US – at the expense of billions in cash. This assumes, of course, that theaters will return to normal in 2021, and Warner Bros. believes that will not be the case in the US in the near future. Those are not my words, Ann Sarnoff, CEO of WarnerMedia Studios, said herself in a statement (below). While this is great for Americans, it’s annoying for anyone outside of the US as HBO Max currently has very limited international launch plans. India is not part of it so far, so we still have to see these films in a theater.
Even in the US, all Warner Bros. films will only be available on HBO Max – in 4K HDR – for 31 days, as will be the case with the upcoming 1984 Wonder Woman. The studio expects them to play in theaters around the world for much longer, especially given that there has been a shortage of products in theaters since March.
WarnerMedia is certainly not the first to turn the cinema distribution model on its head, but this is the boldest strategy for the future yet. While Disney + delivered some surprises this year – in Hamilton, Mulanand Pixar’s upcoming soul – Disney is keeping all of its greatest titles from the Marvel Cinematic Universe for theaters. Universal Pictures has signed a deal with AMC Theaters that will allow them to put their films (like the next Fast & Furious, F9) on pay-per-view 17 days after their release in theaters. But that’s not nearly what Warner Bros. has suggested.
“We live in unprecedented times where creative solutions are required, including this new initiative for Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Sarnoff. “Nobody wants to bring films to the screen more than we do. We know that new content is the lifeblood of the theatrical exhibition, but we need to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the US are expected to operate at reduced capacity in 2021. With this unique one-year plan we can support our exhibition partners with a steady selection of world-class films, moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or may not be ready to go back to the cinema have the opportunity 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. “
Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia added, “After considering all of the options available and the estimated number of admissions in 2021, we concluded that this was the best path for WarnerMedia’s film business to move into the next 12 months to navigate. More importantly, we want to offer consumers 17 remarkable films year round so that they can choose and decide how to enjoy those films. Our content is extremely valuable unless it’s on a shelf and nobody sees it. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience and creates value for all. “
Toby Emmerich, chairman of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said: “This hybrid exhibition model will enable us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoers in general in 2021. We have a fantastic, wide range of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers over the next year. and we are excited to present these films to audiences around the world. And as always, we’ll be supporting all of our releases with innovative and robust marketing campaigns for their box office debuts, while highlighting this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to also see our films domestically on HBO Max. “
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