Immediate streaming option set after unprecedented, game-changing announcement
Warner Bros. has announced it will be releasing its 2021 movies in a unique hybrid, consumer-focused, yet very 2020 way. Warner Bros. will release its films theatrically worldwide, while also adding exclusive access to the HBO Max streaming platform on the same day for a one month period (U.S. only).
HBO Max and Warner Bros. are both owned by WarnerMedia, which is owned by AT&T.
This shift and strategic response by WarnerMedia is a game changer and highlights a major shift industry’s are recognizing in how viewers consume entertainment, or at least for the next year.
There will be a wide range of releases on HBO Max throughout 2021 for every all types of movie lovers. Alongside Wonder Woman:1984 for Christmas release 2020, there will be an additional 17 movies to be released over the next 12 months.
- 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
The only other studio that is currently set up for dual release besides Warner Bros with HBO Max, is Disney with Disney+, which certainly will help to secure its position in the top tier of the very competitive world of streaming entertainment.
Only time will tell if the pandemic will permanently alter the way we watch movies. Yet if given the option of getting access to blockbuster films at home and on the same exact date as the theatrical release, poses a serious question to how theaters will react.
“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.”-Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios
What will come of Theater Chains and the future of the movie viewing experience
he debut for WB’s slate of movies to hit streaming services concurrently with theater releases, will undoubtedly have drastic consequences for the the already hard-pressed and struggling theaters.
Warner Bros. made mention that the hybrid release is strictly due to the pandemic, yet it’s unclear how the studio will navigate with movie releases for 2022 and beyond given the new model they are setting into motion.
Movie theater stock prices fell on the news. AMC shares dropped more than 15 percent, while Cinemark was down 14.5 percent.
Following the announcement, theater chain AMC’s CEO and president, Adam Aron made note they have “already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.” He continued by saying “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.”
Theaters like AMC were agreeable to the one time exception of the Wonder Woman:1984 release to both theaters and streaming, however it appears they are less on board with the decision to upload the entirety of 2021’s schedule of films with that same release model.
Another large theater chain, Cinemark, wasn’t able to comment on how the hybrid model would impact its theaters in the long-term, “In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis,” said a spokesperson.
It’s hard to not to have seen something like this coming. Streaming videos are been on the rise. Earlier this year Disney+ released “Mulan” and Universal released “King of Staten Island” and “Trolls: World Tour” straight to on-demand platforms.
Warner Bros and HBO are doing it a little differently. What has been typical during the pandemic, is the rise of premium video-on- demand (PVOD) where viewers are given access to blockbusters on the same day as theater release but you have to pay a premium price, upwards of $30. Yet in the case of WB’s 2021 movies, if you are already a HBO Max subscriber, you get to watch these movies at no additional charge, other than your monthly fee. Compared to a PVOD price of $30 for one movie, $14.99 a month for the 17 movies for 2021 is a no brainer.
Even though, announcements like those for WB are in a way a form of the studio experimenting to see what works while we are in a pandemic, there’s some major signs that this is the beginning of the end for movie theaters.
It’s unclear whether the dual release model will become the new precedent for how Warner Bro operators in business, as currently only 2021 films are on the table. However, at present, theaters, like Regal Cinema are nearly at the brink of bankruptcy.
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