Warner Bros Will Release All 2021 Films on HBO Max Same Day As Theaters

There is an ongoing debate on how the film industry will adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, as theaters started to shut down, there was a conflict between Universal and AMC regarding theatrical releases getting early VOD release. A few months later, AMC reversed its anti-VOD stance when they struck a deal with Universal and allow the company to release its films on VOD earlier than normal. Recently, it seems that that debate has switched from VOD to streaming, with several big releases being scooped up by Netflix and Amazon Prime. One film that Netflix was not able to get in the bag was Godzilla vs Kong, a deal Warner Bros. turned down despite a $200 million bid from Netflix. Now we know why. WarnerMedia has announced that all its big releases in 2021 will release the same-day on HBO Max.

While this is a huge deal for several reasons, it's not that surprising when considering the fact that after the presumably less than ideal performance of Tenet due to the virus still being a major concern for theater-goers, and the upcoming simultaneous release of Wonder Woman 1984 on both HBO Max and theaters. This new release model means that HBO Max is expected to receive the following movies the same day as theaters:

  • The Little Things
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Godzilla vs. Kong
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Those Who Wish Me Dead
  • The Conjuring 3: 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
  • Matrix 4

For some audience members, this is great. Brand new blockbuster movies made available on release day with no need to get out of the house. However, there are lots of downsides to this as well. For one, theaters are already suffering a major hit, with AMC in particular on the edge of bankruptcy. This is definitely an added blow to the business as it means people aren't as motivated to go to the theaters. Secondly, this could set a bad precedent for the future as seeing a movie in theaters is in many ways the ideal way to experience it. Especially some of the big films that WB has lined up for their 2021 slate.

One thing to note is that this deal is specified to be for the 2021 theatrical releases, meaning that as the pandemic fades away this deal can change or go away entirely. “This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners, and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, in a press release this morning. “We have a fantastic, wide-ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able to 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.”

While this seems to be a response to the performance of Tenet a few weeks ago, the real longevity of this hybrid release plan will be seen when WW84 releases on Christmas Day and how it performs against other films such as Monster Hunter, which is only getting a theatrical release. In the lead-up to the release of Wonder Woman, HBO Max has gotten rid of the free trial membership so if you want to see the movie in all its neon-filled 80s glory, you will have to signup for an HBO Max subscription. On the plus side, HBO Max is continuing to update its features to provide a great viewing experience with WW84 being the first film on the platform to be available in 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. Until this pandemic is over, the industry will continue to change and evolve, let's just hope, at the end of it all, we don't forget the magic of going to the theaters.

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