Warner Bros plans to return to normality for its major film releases next year. The current strategy of releasing all of the studio’s films on the same day on HBO Max and in theaters will not continue after 2021. Jason Kilar, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia, told Recode that Warner Bros will go back to the old model of a theatrical premiere for major films and then streaming them on HBO Max at a later date.
In 2021, all Warner Bros theatrical releases will be available to any HBO Max subscriber for 30 days. That means subscribers will initially have a month to watch Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Dune, and The Matrix 4 at no additional cost. The movies should be available again later on HBO Max.
If you want to see The Batman on its opening weekend in March, you’ll have to go to the cinema. But not just any movie theater. Next year, Regal Cinemas in the US (for 45 days) and Cineworld in the UK (for 31-45 days) will have first rights to all Warner Bros theatrical releases before they can be seen elsewhere. So while Warner Bros had already planned a return to a model of a first release only in theaters in 2023, next year doesn’t come as a big surprise.
Clearly, WarnerMedia expects to return to business in the near future as vaccination programs continue to grow. There are already some signs of life for the film industry, as Godzilla vs. Kong became one of the biggest cinema hits of the pandemic era, with a $50 million domestic opening last weekend.
WarnerMedia’s decision to stream all 2021 releases on HBO Max at the same time they hit theaters was widely criticized by HBO insiders and other industry figures, including Tenet director Christopher Nolan and Dune’s Denis Villeneuve.
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