Warner Bros studio will debut all of its 2021 films in cinemas and on the HBO Max streaming service on the same day, escalating tensions between Hollywood’s studios and US theatres and single-handedly upending the future of moviegoing.
The films, which are expected to include ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ and ‘The Suicide Squad,’ will be available on HBO Max for one month starting on the same day they hit cinemas, the studio said in a statement.
The forthcoming sci-fi epic ‘Dune’ and the Matrix sequel are also scheduled to follow the new release pattern.
The change, led by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, was the most aggressive move to date to bring movies into homes sooner, and it sent a shock across Hollywood. Cinemas have long resisted attempts by studios to shorten the time that cinemas can offer new movies exclusively.
Typically, new releases are shown exclusively at cinemas for months. But with many cinemas shut due to the virus, studio revenues have plunged.
Warner Bros executives said the strategy was prompted by the pandemic, and would stay in effect for one year.
“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,” said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group.
“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.
Warner Bros had already announced that its big budget Christmas action movie, Wonder Woman 1984, would be available on HBO Max, as well as in cinemas.
Cinema operators did not embrace the plan. AMC CEO Adam Aron said Warner Bros was sacrificing profits at its movie studio to boost HBO Max, adding: “we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense.”