Warner Bros.’ plans to release all 2021 movies simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters is only temporary, it seems. Variety reports the studio has confirmed that its Mad Max prequel Furiosa, the animated/live action hybrid Coyote vs. Acme and a musical take on The Color Purple will all release in theaters in 2023 — with no mention of an HBO Max debut. That doesn’t rule out any streaming plans, but we wouldn’t count on watching these titles from home on day one.
The media giant clearly plans to settle back into the familiar pre-pandemic cycle of blockbusters and holiday premieres. Furiosa arrives first, on June 23rd, 2023, while Coyote vs. Acme is due slightly later on July 21st. The Color Purple is slated to premiere on December 20th of that year.
Warner’s messaging isn’t subtle — it’s signalling to creators and the public that its 2021 strategy is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic rather than a sign of a long-term shift. The company has faced stiff opposition to its plan from Dune director Denis Villeneuve and Tenet’s Christopher Nolan, with Villeneuve claiming that Warner was trashing cinema in the name of propping up HBO Max. A 2023 movie slate won’t satisfy those creators in the short term, but it might keep them from dropping the studio.
This won’t be thrilling if you view same-day streaming as a chance for the movie industry to break away from an old formula and the grip of theater chains. With that said, Warner is also being somewhat optimistic about the state of theaters. Many theaters have been in danger or even closed as a result of the pandemic, and even AMC has warned it might run out of cash. Although it won’t be surprising if the theater business rebuilds by 2023, big-screen debuts might not be as important as they were before 2020.