Warner Bros. to Bring All 2021 Movie Releases to HBO Max and Theaters

Posted on December 3, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 17 Comments

After a year in which audiences stayed away from theaters because of the pandemic, Warner Bros. has opted for a bold strategy for 2021: It will release all its movies next year simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. The move comes two weeks after the movie studio announced that its most-anticipated—and oft-delayed—movie of 2020, Wonder Woman 1984, will launch in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day, December 25.

“[This] allows us to do a global release and a national release in what we think is going to be a checkerboarded theatrical market place for the bulk of 2021,” Warner Bros. chairman  Toby Emmerich told The Hollywood Reporter. “We think where theaters are open, and consumers can go, that a lot of people will choose to go to the theater, especially for big movies.”

Warner Bros. has some big movies planned for 2021, including Dune, Godzilla vs. King Kong, The Matrix 4, and The Suicide Squad, among many others. And while I’m sure studio executives would prefer to stick to a traditional release schedule in which movies head to theaters first, the firm consulted with epidemiologists and decided that a dual release strategy was best.

“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” WarnerMedia chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff says. “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.”

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Warner Bros. to Bring All 2021 Movie Releases to HBO Max and Theaters”

  1. mebby

    I am never going to a movie theatre again!

  2. petteri

    This sounds like the beginning of the end for traditional movie theaters, and that I'm very sad about. I can't see them supporting a wide variety films outside big block buster action films, where a large sound and screen real estate makes a notable difference.

  3. jc

    It'll make it a lot easier for Pirates to now copy directly off a 4K screen through a capture card than setting a Cam in the Cinema. With the technology Pirates have to bypass security of 4K streaming sites, will this have a detrimental impact of both Cinema and Streaming services releasing blockbuster fillms at the same time going forward?

  4. crunchyfrog

    While I do not believe that movie theatres are going away anytime soon, I do see consolidation in the industry for the major theatre chains as the smaller or weaker ones will not last through this pandemic.

    As for this dual release model, I do see this becoming normalized where movies will get released on both platforms to view at home or in the theatres. Be aware that as they sort this out for home viewing, the pricing is going to resemble a Pay-Per-View model like some sporting events and the costs will likely go sky high just to watch at home.

  5. Chris_Kez

    I for one miss going to the theater; it's like a temple for storytelling. I love Dolby Atmos theaters, IMAX theaters, art house, multiplex, little local screening room, whatever. Give me a big opening night crowd or an empty matinee, leather recliners or creaky old cloth seats; doesn't matter. There's nothing like walking through that door, smelling the popcorn, ripping the ticket, the whole ritual (which now includes shutting down the phone, blessedly). I recently upgraded to an even larger TV with 4K and Dolby Vision, and I already have a nice 5.1 system, comfy seating, good popcorn, beverages, etc. It's just not the same. It's a little bit like going to Sunday church services online-- you're doing all the same stuff, more conveniently and comfortably, but there's some experiential piece that is just missing.

    • mattbg

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Agree - although I probably don't go as often as my affinity for theaters should suggest, which I guess is why they are struggling.

      There is some room for optimism, I think. If studios aren't bound by release windows, there's reason to think that more movies may be screened in theaters. If there is no risk to screening a movie for 1 week and then sending it to on-demand simultaneously or a week or two later, the decision to show in theaters should be a simpler one. The business decision is different from the one where, if you show in theaters, you can't show it on-demand for months later and have to re-market the movie all over again.

  6. Scott Ross

    Glad I got ATT wireless with HBOmax. Didnt even plan on it.

  7. madthinus

    Makes sense, now bring your streaming world wide please.

  8. jgraebner

    I think there is close to zero chance that they go back to the old business model after doing simultaneous theater/streaming releases for a full year.

    Theaters will need to quickly figure out how to survive in a world where they no longer have an exclusive window on many major releases.

    • mattbg

      In reply to jgraebner:

      Failed entertainment business models seem to end up being adopted by my local publicly-funded library.

      Paper books, free movie rentals, video game rentals, etc. Anything to get people in the door. Maybe they can set up small theaters to screen the latest movies. I would not be surprised to see that happen.

  9. irfaanwahid

    Releasing on OTT platform is great.. but, when the OTT platform like HBO Max and Disney+ are not worldwide available, how does this help people who are not in their favorite regions?!

    Why not make the app available everywhere and lock content region based, at least content that is not licensed by 3rd parties like Wonder Woman they can make it available globally.

    They all need to take lessons from Netflix and even Amazon! Most of their Originals are available globally.

  10. rmlounsbury

    It would be unfortunate if the pandemic kills of movie theaters. I'd still rather go to a theater than watch from home. I can't get a two-story tall screen with true surround audio in my living room. I really enjoy going to the cinema and watching anything from the newest Marvel flick to some art house movie.

  11. Daekar

    There is zero reason to ever go to the theater, at least for me...virus or no virus. This is a great thing for HBO, though. I wonder how long each release will be exclusive to HBO after release?

    • miamimauler

      In reply to Daekar:

      "There is zero reason to ever go to the theater, at least for me"

      The big action block busters are much better on the huge screens imho. We're entering our warmer months here in Australia and there is nothing better than going to the drive-in with family and/or friends.

      We take our deck chairs and sit outside, it's great and the only way to watch the action movies.

      Other than that though I don't disagree.

  12. StevenLayton

    Any idea if and how they’ll be showed in the UK?

  13. justme

    I dont think the theater-going experience will go away just yet. There is just something about seeing a film on the big screen you cannot get at home. You really cant replicate that obsessed fan experience at the house. Picture hundreds of your fellow movie fans queued up around the block for hours, some in cosplay costume. Star Wars and Star Trek were particularly good at attracting such crowds back in the day. That said, no reason you cant have both the traditional theater along with streaming experience.