In a move that some may have suspected was on the horizon while most will consider it quite the shock, Warner Bros. has announced plans for its entire 2021 roster to debut simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming platform and in theaters.
Per a press release shared on Thursday, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group CEO Ann Sarnoff is calling this approach a "unique one-year plan," which points to the possibility of it indeed being a single-time rollout strategy inspired solely by the difficulties facing theaters across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
"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," Sarnoff said.
Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia CEO, added that the decision to pursue this uniquely pandemic-era strategy was reached after taking a look at all possible options.
"Our content is extremely valuable, unless it's sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone," Kilar said. "We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all."
A tweet from the HBO Max account also clarified the releases will come at no extra cost to subscribers in the United States.
Warner Bros.' 2021 release include a new Matrix entry, the Dune reimagining, In the Heights, a Sopranos prequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy, and more. As previously announced, Wonder Woman 1984 will hit the HBO Max platform (and select theaters) on Christmas.
In short, HBO Max users will be given an exclusive one-month access period to the releases. After that, each release will leave the streamer while continuing its theatrical run.
Below, peep the full list of (expected) 2021 releases as confirmed on Thursday by Warner Bros. Pictures Group:
- 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
- The Many Saints of Newark
- King Richard
- Cry Macho
- Matrix 4
Shortly after the HBO Max news broke on Thursday, Cinemark became the first major exhibitor to issue a statement in response.
"In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis. At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films," a company rep said, per Deadline.
AMC CEO Adam Aron, who was not happy with the development, commented on the news. "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 said, per Deadline. "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." The AMC boss went to say that the company has "already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject."
As you can imagine, stocks for movie theater chains took fell after the news was announced. According to Deadline, Cinemark shares were down 22% while AMC Entertainment dipped by 16%.