2020 was supposed to be a big year for movies due to highly-anticipated releases such as Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Widow. However, the hype quickly turned to frustration as movie theaters were forced to close around the world back in March due to the global pandemic. From that point on, nothing has been the same ever since.
From production delays to shifting release dates, Hollywood has adjusted numerous times in order to accommodate the corona-infused challenges. The pandemic forced studio executives to adjust, using unexpected strategies such as releasing films on streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max.
And now, it seems that Warner Bros. is not taking any chances by issuing a bold move that will forever change the landscape of the entertainment industry.
In an unprecedented move, The Hollywood Reporter shared in a report that Warner Bros. has opted to “send 17 films” to HBO Max “for 31 days the same day they hit theaters.” The aforementioned films include the likes of Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad, and Dune.
The full list of movies can be seen below.
The Suicide Squad
The Matrix 4
Godzilla vs. Kong
Space Jam: A New Legacy
Judas and the Black Messiah
Tom & Jerry
Those Who Wish Me Dead
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
In The Heights
The Many Saints of Newark
Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, shared a statement regarding the matter, admitting that the fact that this is an unprecedented time means that there is a need for “creative solutions" while also pointing out that this is a “unique one-year plan:”
“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.”
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar also discussed the surprising move of the studio, believing that this approach “serves our fans, supports exhibitors, and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience:”
“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. 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 chairman Toby Emmerich expressed his excitement with the current plan of the studio by sharing that this “hybrid exhibition model” will enable the studio to “best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021:”
“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021. 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.”
Along with the report, HBO Max released an official trailer celebrating the bold move of Warner Bros, emphasizing the fact that films will still be released in theaters despite the same-day release on HBO Max:
Update: Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter revealed in a tweet that some partners of Warner Bros. “such as Legendary” were not aware of the said move.
WHAT THIS MEANS
As it is, this is a life-changing step for Warner Bros. that will surely have a direct effect on the decision-making of other movie studios. From a fan standpoint, it's a welcome piece of good news since they now have the option to watch big-budget blockbusters from the comfort of their homes and without the risk of contracting the virus. However, for movie theater owners, this spells bad news for a number of reasons.
This essentially means that more movie chains will be forced to close entirely, since there's a strong chance that moviegoers will opt to watch the films at home instead. While some movie theaters around the world are slowly reopening, the debate about the safety of movie-goers is still ongoing. Even though safety protocols are already in place, it was previously reported that some health experts are strongly against the idea of people flocking to theaters to watch a newly-released movie. This is an indication that the normal movie-going experience will not come back anytime soon.
Warner Bros. appears to have learned their lesson when they risked releasing Christopher Nolan's Tenet in theaters last August. In hopes of reviving movie theaters, Tenet was released to urge fans to hopefully get back to cinemas, but sadly, this plan didn't pan out.
After a respectable opening weekend, the numbers suffered major drops week after week, ultimately leading to the realization that it couldn't sustain theaters. This was further cemented by a statement from WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey, admitting that Tenet's release wasn't a success.
Given that, it seems that this is the response of Warner Bros. to Tenet's release, and the studio remains confident that this approach will be effective for Wonder Woman 1984 and the rest of their 2021 slate.