Warner Bros. is reportedly set to release its entire movie slate in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day next year, a major move smashing the theatrical window, in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered thousands of theaters across the United States.
In its Thursday press release, WarnerMedia announced that each first-run film will air on the HBO Max streaming service for a month after release in theaters. The film giant also noted that the new “hybrid” release scheme is a response to the virus, saying, “The hybrid model was created as a strategic response to the impact of the ongoing global pandemic.”
Some of the Warner Bros. films that will fulfill the dual debut plan are major franchise blockbusters and includes The Matrix 4, Dune, In the Heights, Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark, and The Suicide Squad follow up.
WarnerMedia chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff has called the new debut scheme a “unique one-year plan.”
“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” Sarnoff added. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. 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.”
“With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films,” she said. “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.”
According to Variety, the new films will be offered to HBO Max subscribers for free for 31 days. Then: “After the one-month mark, those movies will only play in theaters until they reach the traditional home entertainment frame. From there, people can rent through online platforms like Amazon, iTunes, or Fandango. It’s unclear when the titles will return to HBO Max.”
Thursday’s announcement comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Wonder Woman: 1984 would debut on this same model, both in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time. Most industry insiders assumed the Wonder Woman decision was a stand-alone move. According to Variety, Warner’s dual debut decision for its entire 2021 slate has come as a surprise.
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