Whoa. In what has to be the biggest movie news story of the year, Warner Bros. has just announced that it will premiere its entire 2021 slate of films theatrically and simultaneously on HBO Max.
This game-changing decision means HBO Max subscribers will be able to see every film from the studio without paying an extra dime, and more importantly, without leaving the safety of their homes during an ongoing public health crisis. (At least for the first month of these releases). Read on for a full list of titles that will be included in this new deal, including The Suicide Squad, Dune, The Matrix 4, and tons more.
Welcome to the Streaming Wars, HBO Max! This shocking decision instantly vaults the streaming service into “must-have” territory, making it an instant serious contender with Netflix and Disney+ after a relatively quiet (and at times confusing) launch.
There were some rumblings earlier this week that a few films might be considering a simultaneous theatrical and digital release strategy, but we had no idea that such a huge shift was on the horizon. Here’s a list of the films that are expected to be included in this deal:
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, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho, and The Matrix 4.
Every single one of these movies will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR on HBO Max, which just recently announced that Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first title to stream at that quality level when it drops simultaneously in theaters and on the service this Christmas.
It’s important to note that HBO Max is getting an exclusive one month access period to these titles starting with their premieres, and after that point, “each film will leave the platform and continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories, with all customary distribution windows applying to the title.”
For those who feel safe enough to return to movie theaters – or maybe might feel safe enough during the back half of 2021, when a vaccine is widely expected to be available to most Americans – the theatrical option will still be there. But a decision like this was not made lightly, and I can’t help but wonder if this is what the new normal is going to be when it comes to new film releases in the years ahead.
“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Warner Bros. Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff in a statement. “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. We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.”
Sarnoff calls this a “unique one-year plan,” but again, it feels like Pandora’s Box has been opened here. I’m not sure how you take this away from people once they’ve gotten used to it over the course of a full year.
“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “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.”
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