The pandemic has already changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives. One of the most obvious of those changes: we’re not going out to see movies as often. Dinner and a movie isn’t as popular. This development poses a serious problem for theaters, and for the studios that produce Hollywood blockbusters. Understandably, some of those studios have begun experimenting with alternative means to bring their films to audiences. Now Warner Bros. is taking the remarkably bold approach of making all of its 2021 releases available to stream at home the same day they hit theaters, reports Collider.
This is huge news, because Warner Bros. is a large studio responsible for some of the biggest blockbusters this side of Disney. Consumers already say they don’t particularly need theaters. Many of them are content to wait until movies reach home video and streaming services. Now they won’t even have to wait that long to see the latest Warner Bros. feature, which that studio’s competition can’t possibly ignore. If this experiment goes well and viewer habits continue to evolve, we can likely expect Disney, Sony, Universal, and Paramount to adopt a similar approach. Depending how that goes, the current theater model–already teetering on the edge of a precipice–could become extinct.
Assuming movies aren’t further delayed and Warner Bros. sticks to its tentative schedule, the lineup of 2021 movies you’ll be able to stream at launch is as follows:
- 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
- Matrix 4
Do note that once the movies arrive on HBO Max, they will remain available for a period of one month before temporarily disappearing. They will stream at Ultra 4K and HDR, so you can take advantage of any bells and whistles your home theater hardware might possess. If their performance in theaters continues to justify the screen space and the theater chains are so inclined, the impacted films may continue to screen for some time after that. Then they will arrive on home video and probably return to HBO Max at some point shortly thereafter.
“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Warner Bros. Pictures Group’s chairman, Toby Emmerich. “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.”
Warner Bros. needs to play nice with theaters, if only for now. The “robust” marketing campaigns promised will likely help ease tensions. Movie studios and theater chains have been uneasy but profitable partners for many decades now, but that relationship seems to have grown increasingly strained over the years even without an assist from the global pandemic. Now Warner Bros. has the chance to turn its blockbusters into an advantage in the competitive content streaming industry, which has been changing how people view movies and TV for years. Just ask Blockbuster how things go when you don’t adapt.
What do you think? Will you be watching the movies listed above in theaters, or are you content to stay at home with your HBO Max subscription? Will first dates that turn into smooching in a dark theater corner become another relic of the past, or are we on the verge of a comeback story for theaters? Whatever the case, one thing is clear: this is a developing story worth watching… whether on HBO Max or elsewhere.