With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting Hollywood massively, here comes WarnerMedia has dropped a bombshell with a game-changing announcement. The conglomerate has revealed (via Deadline) their entire Warner Bros. Pictures lineup of 2021 will be releasing both theatrically and on HBO Max at the same time.
As a strategic response to the ongoing pandemic, each of the seventeen movies will be available to view on WarnerMedia’s streaming service for one month at no extra cost. The movies will also be accompanied with a wide theatrical run concurrently, even after the one-month streaming expiry.
This viewing option will only apply to the United States. Internationally, where HBO Max isn’t available, each movie will continue to have a traditional theatrical release where cinemas are open.
“This is a temporary 2021 plan. We have to support exhibition with the product. We don’t think we’re changing the economics of these movies any more than the pandemic has. We’re adding another interval and period for revenue with HBO Max.”Carolyn Blackwood, Chief Operating Officer, Warner Bros. Pictures Group
Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first Warner Bros. feature to release under this experimental model this Christmas Day. The model will also apply to Warner Animation Group’s two 2021 releases, including Tom & Jerry (March 5) and Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16), both of which are live-action/animated hybrids.
Warner Bros. Pictures’ current 2021 lineup includes the following:
- 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
- The Many Saints of Newark
- King Richard
- Cry Macho
- The Matrix 4
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar and WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group Chair/CEO Ann Sarnoff made the unprecedented announcement through the following statements:
“After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months. More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”Jason Kilar, CEO, WarnerMedia
“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. 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. 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.”Ann Sarnoff, CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group
Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman also expressed his optimism on the new hybrid release method:
“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021. We have a fantastic, wide ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able get these movies in front of audiences around the world. And, as always, we’ll support all of our releases with innovative and robust marketing campaigns for their theatrical debuts, while highlighting this unique opportunity to see our films domestically via HBO Max as well.”Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group
Although an understandable release strategy for the hard-hit United States, this historic announcement feels like another blow for the already-endangered movie theatres. Despite vaccines around the corner, now chains have to compete with a concurrent release method which is arguable safer, cheaper, and more accessible during a pandemic like this, limiting potential domestic box office grosses. WarnerMedia’s hybrid release plan has received scrutiny from AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron and Tenet director Christopher Nolan.
For overseas countries, especially those that have handled the pandemic well, this is not an issue as Warner’s 2021 lineup will still have a normal cinema release. Delayed Hollywood releases and diverted-to-streaming titles have left international cinemas starving for fresh content outside of local/indie films and re-releases, so the influx of new releases from a major studio like Warner Bros. would be a great benefit in keeping the business screening.
An up-to-date release schedule for mainstream animated features can be viewed at our Animation Calendar.