| Warner Bros. is set to release its entire 2021 film slate to streaming service HBO Max on the same day the films are released in theaters. |
A total of 17 films – including “Dune,” “The Matrix 4,” “The Suicide Squad,” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” – will debut on the streaming service as well as theatrically. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar told Vox’s Peter Kafka the move is intended as somewhat of a compromise to please fans, distributors, filmmakers, and talent.
More: The hybrid theatrical/streaming plan will only be for inside the U.S. HBO Max is not currently available internationally. The plan could give a major boost to HBO Max’s lackluster subscriber numbers. The streaming service has fewer than 9 million paying subscribers and 28 million existing HBO users (via a paid cable subscription) have not yet activated available HBO Max accounts. For comparison, Netflix has 73 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, and 195 million worldwide. Disney+ has 74 million subscribers worldwide. In November, WarnerMedia announced that “Wonder Woman 1984,” which was originally set to open in theaters earlier this year, will hit both theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day.
Reactions: AMC, the largest theatrical chain worldwide, said WarnerMedia “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 startup.” The chain said it would pursue the best possible “economic terms to preserve our business” in negotiations to screen Warner Bros. films. Though WarnerMedia’s Kilar says “this one is for the fans” in his announcement, former Hollywood Reporter editorial director Matthew Belloni says “let’s be real: this one’s for Wall Street.” Julia Alexander, who writes a Substack newsletter about Disney, believes a number of other studios are about to follow suit. Disney already moved a few tentpole releases (“Mulan,” Pixar’s “Soul”) to Disney+, so she expects a few more announcements on Dec. 10, Disney’s investor day. English barrister and writer Rupert Myers believes this signals “the end of cinema as we know it,” with most new films premiering in the home, and going to a theater existing as a “niche concern.” Inside Streaming writer Lon Harris and filmmaker Freddie Wong believe that studios will have to reconsider why Americans go to movie theaters. It may not be as much about an exemplary technical experience (high picture and sound quality) since they can now get that at home. Rather, theaters will have to emphasize the social experience of seeing a movie with a big crowd.
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