Warner Bros. has made a major announcement on its 2021 film slate. As reported by outlets such as IndieWire and Variety, the company will be streaming its theatrical releases simultaneously on HBO Max for a one-month window.
The upcoming release of Wonder Woman 1984 has been slated for the same distribution strategy, with the film heading to both theatres and HBO max on Dec. 25, and now it seems Warner Bros. has made the decision to follow suit with all of their releases.
Among their 2021 slate of films includes the following:
– Matrix 4
– Judas and the Black Messiah
– Godzilla vs. Kong
– The Suicide Squad
– The Little Things
– Tom & Jerry
– Those Who Wish Me Dead
– Mortal Kombat
– The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
– In the Heights
– Space Jam: A New Legacy
– The Many Saints of Newark
– King Richard
– Cry Macho
Of course, as made evident by events this year, all of these release dates are subject to change and there is every possibility that some of these are pushed further back. However, as of this moment, that is a very strong and exciting 2021 slate, especially allowing the likes of Dune and Judas and the Black Messiah to be watched from home.
In the midst of a global pandemic where many audiences are still reluctant to risk their safety in heading to the cinema, the decision from Warner Bros. is a fantastic one. It allows those who are still not comfortable (especially those who have not received vaccines throughout the year) to still experience the films they want to see from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Unfortunately, HBO Max is unavailable to people like me who live in the United Kingdom, so a cinema trip will be the only way to see any of these films. However, for those in the States that may have been in a similar situation to myself in the last few months – unable to head out because of sick family members and the risk that COVID-19 poses to them – this is positive news.
Included in IndieWire’s report on the news is the following statement from WarnerMedia Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff:
“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.”
There is a flip side to the argument, especially those concerned about the future of movie theatres and whether this affects their future. However, during these unprecedented times, it’s important to allow people the opportunity to see these movies. The amount of work that has gone into these productions only for a small amount of people to see them would be a shame, likewise, the general public shouldn’t be punished for not feeling comfortable going to a cinema, therefore giving them the choice is the right thing to do.
There’s been cause for concern over whether this will be more than just a short-term move, however, there’s nothing to suggest that to be the case. While the virus still continues to kill thousands, it’s important to put these kind of strategies in place to protect the public while getting eyes on these films. And for films like Denis Villenueve’s Dune (which already had its intended release date pushed back), there’s every chance that audiences will be encouraged to head to cinemas to see this epic on the biggest screen they can, but it’s no longer a necessity.
This is where I’m at as well. I wholeheartedly understand it given the world we live in now and the general trajectory of the industry. Theaters will evolve, things will change, but at this moment this seems like a smart play. https://t.co/LUaKmn8MRu
— InSession Film (@InSessionFilm) December 3, 2020
The replies to the tweet from our InSessionFilm Twitter account prompted some very good thoughts on the matter, from those who both agree and disagree with the strategy of Warner Bros.
Some of our brilliant staff members also shared their thoughts on Twitter, shedding light on important topics that Warner Bros. will undoubtedly have considered when building this strategy.
Not only does this move from Warner Bros. impact cinemas in the US (which is huge), but it's going to potentially hurt International markets, the art of filmmaking for the best systems possible, and increase piracy.
— Amy Smith (@filmswithamy) December 3, 2020
Movie theatres will never go away, certainly. For the short term, this is what needs to be done. https://t.co/2T2kDJ3gPt
— Cine-A-Man (@brian_cine) December 3, 2020
Honestly, I’m okay with it. When it’s safe, I’ll see the movies I can in theaters. Hopefully, it means people will freaking stop coming into the theaters on their phones and instead stay home. Support your arthouse and indie theaters https://t.co/2KS2KUv7dj
— Alan French At #FFF2023 (@TheAlanFrench) December 3, 2020
It will be interesting in the following weeks and months to see just how many others follow Warner Bros. into a similar strategy, or whether some will stress the importance of having these films roll out exclusively in theatres and not for home streaming straight away.