It’s been clear for a while now that the continued effects of the Coronavirus pandemic would have a long-lasting impact on the theatrical industry, but few people could’ve expected what Warner Bros. did earlier today. In case you missed it, the studio announced that their entire slate of films for 2021 will debut simultaneously in cinemas and on HBO Max, which is a very big deal.
Of course, a whole host of high-profile titles have been heading straight to streaming in recent months, with folks still skeptical about visiting theaters, but this unprecedented move by WB could now make the entire experience of watching a flick on the big screen totally redundant. After all, if people can catch the biggest new releases from the comfort of their own homes, then why would they venture out to the cinema?
And with all of WB’s 2021 projects heading to HBO Max – including but not limited to Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The Suicide Squad, Dune and The Matrix 4 – you can bet that subscriptions to the platform will be going way up. So, good news for the studio then, but bad news for theaters. And AMC has now responded exactly how you’d expect them to, saying the following:
“These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, Wonder Woman 1984, being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height. However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theatre business is expected to recover.
“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. 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. We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.
“As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand. So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.”
An understandable response, and it’ll be fascinating to see how things play out for the industry from here. For instance, will other studios now follow suit? And is this really only going to be for WB’s 2021 releases, or could they continue with this strategy for years to come? All good questions, but no matter what happens moving forward, you can be certain that the theatrical industry will never be the same.