In the latest apparent shift towards a shorter exclusive theatrical window, Warner Bros Pictures Group has unveiled a “unique one-year plan” hybrid release model for its 2021 feature slate that will see its films open theatrically worldwide and launch day-and-date in US cinemas and for an exclusive one-month window on HBO Max.
Following the HBO Max access period, each film – the 2021 roster includes Dune, Matrix 4 and awards contender Judas And The Black Messiah – will leave the platform and continue to play theatrically in the US and international territories, “with all customary distribution windows applying to the title”.
The hybrid model echoes that adopted for the imminent release of Wonder Woman 1984 and comes in response to the ongoing pandemic, which has had a particularly devastating impact on theatrical releases in the US, where cinemas in Los Angeles and New York have remained closed since March.
Observers noted it is also an opportunity for WarnerMedia to boost HBO Max’s subscriber base. All films will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR on HBO Max.
Warner Bros. Pictures Group’s 2021 expected release slate currently includes 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 Matrix 4.
“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group (of which Warner Bros is a part), who announced the model with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.
“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 theatres in the US 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 theatres 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.”
Kilar added, “After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months.
“More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”
Writing in a blog, Kilar added that upcoming HBO Max content included limited series Mare Of Easttown starring Kate Winslet, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Steven Soderbergh crime thriller No Sudden Move, the new season of Succession, and the Friends reunion. The executive added that principal photography is set to start in the next few months on the next Game Of Thrones series, House Of The Dragon.
“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Warner Bros. Pictures Group 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.”