AT&T’s Warner Bros. studios will release all their 2021 films for streaming on HBO Max at the same time that they release them in theaters. Erich Schwartzel and Joe Flint wrote a story about the news in the Wall Street Journal.
This is an acceleration of a wider trend, but it’s also arguably the biggest step yet in that direction. It encompasses 17 films — including Matrix 4 and Space Jam 2 — and their releases will occur simultaneously, rather than an initial release in theaters followed by streaming several weeks later.
During the pandemic, Disney released Mulan on Disney+ pay-per-view, and WarnerMedia had already announced that Wonder Woman 1984 would be released on HBO Max this Christmas. Meanwhile, the nation’s biggest theater chain, AMC, announced last July that they had reached a deal with Universal Studios to release their blockbuster movies on PPV after a 17-day window. The norm was previously 90 days.
There is a feeling out there that this spells doom and gloom for movie theaters, but I’m still not so sure. My belief is that people will want to view true blockbusters in Imax and/or 3D, on a massive screen, as a communal experience. Many of us have lived through this year, seeing what it’s like to rarely leave the house for recreation, and I don’t see that continuing once the vaccine starts kicking in.