Beyond 2021 — Future Of The WB/HBO Max Strategy
A Mixture of Theatrical-Exclusive Films and Day-And-Date WB/HBOMAX Debuts
Back in December of 2020, Warner Bros shocked the industry with the announcement of their new release strategy: Warner Bros would host all of their 2021 films simultaneously on theatres and on HBO Max. This was met by a massive backlash, with famed-director Christopher Nolan referring it to as such:
Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service. — Christopher Nolan
Many other in the industry had a similar reaction. Although, most of the filmmakers opted not to publicly state their displeasure due to the ever-changing climate of the industry. This strategy appears to be paying off, however, as Wonder Woman 1984 performed reasonably okay for the pandemic, but not so much within the pre-pandemic standards. On the other hand, it was a hit on streaming, despite the mixed reviews.
The recently released Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a HBO Max exclusive, also appears to be a success, judging by inside rumours:
Zack Snyder’s Justice League exploded onto HBO Max last week with nuclear force. This is no exaggeration; the four-hour superhero epic crashed the channel several times on opening night. — Geekosity
This is enough for WB to try and secure an exclusivity deal before Netflix does. The real test of the strategy would now be for the highly anticipated Godzilla VS Kong and Mortal Kombat films. If the strategy ultimately proves to be a success on both the theatrical and streaming avenues, this will reinforce the confidence of their strategy.
Cinemark/Regal have recently broke the news in regards to their relationship with Warner Bros. They have recently stated that Warner Bros will air their theatrical films for 45 days before they head to the ancillary market in regards to the American releases. For the British, they will have a 31 days theatrical-exclusive window. This implies Warner Bros films in the U.K will air 14 days after their American counterparts to meet their contractual obligations.
We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros. This agreement shows the studio’s commitment to the theatrical business and we see this agreement as an important milestone in our 100 year relationship with Warner Bros. — Greidinger
The above statement was published on 22nd March 2021.
However, a recent interview my Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar appears to suggest a slightly different approach. When asked about the release strategy beyond this year, he mentions there will be two distinct types, as reported by CNBC:
One of which is going to be the big and epic in scope movies that you’ve come to expect from us, which has an exclusive theatrical run. I think the run will be shorter than has been the case in the past. The world of DC and Harry Potter and things like that; big, epic scope movies I think deserve and will have an exclusive theatrical run. But there will be other movies, a large number of movies that will go to HBO Max the same day that those same movies were made available to exhibitors and cinemas around the world. —Jason Kilar
The above statement was published on 15th March 2021.
In other words: The big tentpole films (such as of those of the DC and Harry Potter calibre) will have an exclusive theatrical window, whereas every other film will debut day-and-date theatrically and on HBO Max. There will be two different release strategies, depending on the movie. This distinction was not highlighted in the most recent statement by Cinemark/Regal.
What Could This Mean?
There are two possibilities which I can derive of judging by these statements:
- Warner Media might have changed their mind and decided to get a theatrical-exclusive window for all of their movies. This seems unlikely judging by how recent both of the interviews/articles were released.
- Warner Media will indeed follow up their with two release strategies, depending on the size of the movie. Perhaps Cinemark/Regal simply decided not to reveal that key information yet.
Only time will tell what actually happens. In the meantime, the rest of the Warner Bros film slate is expected to debut day-and-date theatrically and on HBO Max for the remainder of 2021.
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