Warner Bros is planning a return to normality for its big movie releases next year. The current strategy of releasing all of the studio’s films on HBO Max and in theaters on the same day won’t continue beyond 2021. Jason Kilar, CEO of parent company WarnerMedia, told Recode that Warner Bros will go back to the old model of a theatrical premiere for major movies before streaming them on HBO Max at a later date.
During 2021, all Warner Bros theatrical releases are available to every HBO Max subscriber for 30 days. That means that subscribers initially have a month to watch the likes of Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Dune and The Matrix 4 at no extra cost. The movies should cycle back onto HBO Max later.
If you want to catch The Batman on opening weekend next March, you’ll need to head to the theater. But not just any cinema. Next year, Regal Cinemas in the US (for 45 days) and Cineworld in the UK (for 31-45 days) will have first dibs on all Warner Bros theatrical releases before they’re available to watch elsewhere. So, although Warner Bros already planned a return to an initial theatrical-only release model in 2023, doing so next year won’t come as a huge surprise.
It's clear that WarnerMedia expects it'll be back to business as usual in the near future as vaccine programs continue to ramp up. There have already been some signs of life for the movie industry, as Godzilla vs. Kong became one of the biggest pandemic-era theatrical hits, pulling in $50 million on its domestic opening last weekend.
WarnerMedia's decision to stream all 2021 releases on HBO Max at the same time they hit theaters was widely criticized by HBO insiders and other industry figures, including Tenet director Christopher Nolan and Dune's Denis Villeneuve.