THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Warner Bros. Pictures announced its plan to stream all its 2021 movies on HBO Max, a move described as “seismic” by analysts.
“This is the game-changing moment that theaters have feared the most,” said Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations.
The studio’s 2021 film slate — including a new “Matrix” movie, “Godzilla vs. Kong” and the Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptation “In the Heights” — will stream on HBO Max at the same time the films play in theaters. Films will leave HBO Max after one month. The strategy will last for the next 12 months, according to Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group. HBO Max is only available in the U.S., so the studio’s films will roll out exclusively in theaters internationally.
The announcement sent stocks of theater chains plummeting. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. dove 16% to $3.62, its worst single-day slide since mid-October. “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,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said.
Some are questioning what this experiment could mean for the future of movies. While some films may benefit from a potential increase in viewership due to the ease of watching a movie at home, other films rely on the power of IMAX visuals, loud sounds and audience reactions.
Warner Bros. Smashes Box Office Windows, Will Send Entire 2021 Slate to HBO Max and Theaters – Hollywood Reporter – 12/3/2020
The unprecedented move is likely to catch theater owners off guard and upsets a model that has been in place for decades. Warner Bros. stresses that these are pandemic-only rules, but once something is broken, can you really put it back together again? This also raises serious concerns about the landscape of movie-going in 2021.
Warner Bros. will release all of its new 2021 movies simultaneously on HBO Max – The Verge – 12/3/2020
The movies will only stream on HBO Max for one month before leaving the platform for a period of time. They will also play in theaters simultaneously, keeping the relationship with movie theater distributors like AMC and Regal. The plan is to run this experiment for one year. For people who don’t have access to HBO Max in their market, it appears that theatrical releases will still be the go-to option.
Warner Bros. Will Debut All Its 2021 Films on HBO Max – Vanity Fair – 12/3/2020
The hybrid model—which WarnerMedia is set to employ later this month with the release of Wonder Woman 1984—is not a permanent strategy just yet, or so WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff claimed in a statement. Rather, at least right now, the company plans to consider this a one-year stopgap to account for the coronavirus pandemic and the radically diminished capacity of theaters to operate amid the global health crisis.
Hollywood, Theater Owners Sound Off on Warner Bros.’ Bold HBO Max Move: ‘They’re Playing With Fire’ – Variety – 12/4/2020
Part of the reason why theater owners felt betrayed by the announcement that Warner Bros. is relying on HBO Max to bring its film slate to the masses is because the studio broke the news as numerous vaccines are starting to be approved. Exhibitors said they would have understood if Warners sent movies to HBO Max on a case-by-case basis. But the decision to send the entire 2021 slate meant they still believe the return of moviegoing is many, many months away.