On Thursday, Warner Bros. sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry by announcing it will be releasing all of its 2021 titles both in cinemas and on streaming at the same time. What this means is that audiences will be able to either experience the latest movie in cinemas or watch it online through WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max. Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first such release, coming out on Christmas Day.
Like all other major studios, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Warner Bros to either postpone or reshuffle its upcoming releases. With the pandemic still raging and movie theaters facing bankruptcy as early as January 2021, the studio is looking for a different distribution model. Just some of the movies Warner Bros. wants to distribute both in cinemas and digitally include Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, In The Heights, Mortal Kombat, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad, and Tom & Jerry.
Naturally, movie theater owners are furious about this decision. Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theaters, immediately responded: “Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.”
While Warner Bros may try to push movie theaters under the coronavirus bus, there’s no guarantee this will save it. It remains to be seen can big-budget blockbusters like Wonder Woman 1984 earn enough through online distribution to cover their production costs, let alone make a profit.