January 26, 2021

Warner Bros. to release every 2021 movie on HBO Max at same time as theaters


Josh Brolin and Timothée Chalamet in “Dune.”

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

AT&T‘s Warner Bros. announced on Thursday that all of its films scheduled to launch in 2021 will be released on HBO Max at the same time they are available in theaters. It’s currently a one-year plan.

AMC shares were down nearly 8% on the news.

It’s an example of how AT&T is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing people to safely watch new movies at home without having to venture out to a movie theater, many of which have been closed to the increasing spread of Covid. It’s also a move that Warner Bros. already made with “Wonder Woman 1984,” which will be released to theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day. That movie was originally scheduled to come out in the summer, but was delayed several times before WarnerMedia decided to release it on HBO Max.

HBO Max is AT&T’s online video service, which launched in the U.S. in May. It costs $14.99 per month and includes access to movies and TV shows.

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do,” Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks group said. “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.”

Warner Bros. movies launching in 2021 include “The Little Things,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Tom & Jerry,” “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” “In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Reminiscence,” “Malignant,” “Dune,” “The Many Saints of Newark,” “King Richard,” “Cry Macho” and “Matrix 4.” 

Universal took a similar approach in April and released “Trolls World Tour” online and in theaters at the same time. But, that required people to purchase the movie since it wasn’t available as part of a subscription package at the time. In July, Universal shortened the number of days films needed to run in theaters before they were available online through an agreement with AMC Theaters. Prior to that agreement, theaters had exclusive rights to Universal films for 90 days.

Disney has also experimented with launching a blockbuster movie on directly on streaming. Earlier this year, Disney released “Mulan” on Disney+ as a one-time, $30 purchase.



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