For those unaware…or live under a rock, Warner Media announced a few days ago that ALL of their 2021 films will release both in theaters and on their streaming platform, HBO Max on the same day and date. While this is a bold move and a bit of a slap in the face to theater chains, films will only be available at no extra charge on HBO Max for 30 days.
This decision was made due to the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty in the status of movie theaters in the foreseeable future. In what many consider a power move, the studio will undoubtedly see far less return than they would had they stuck to the normal theatrical run on these films. Sadly, these are unprecedented times and Warner Bros. is looking for a way to make sure they get even a slight return on a handful of movies that are ready to go.
You can see my initial thoughts shortly after the news broke in my latest episode of Bridging the Geekdoms FREE TALK below.
Undoubtedly, movie theaters were going to speak out about this decision voicing their displeasure with the idea. Both AMC and Cinemark have weighed in. Cinemark was the first to chime in saying,
“In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis. At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films.”
You will notice Cinemark really doesn’t say much here. They don’t condemn or applaud Warner Media’s decision. However, it goes without saying that this will be a major blow to their bottom line so it is hard to imagine they are thrilled at all.
Then we have AMC who, just a couple weeks ago, supported Warner on their decision to release Wonder Woman 84 simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters has changed their tune to the latest news and was not afraid to voice their real opinion on the matter saying,
“Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.
“We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.
“As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand. So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.”
While it’s understandable for theaters to be upset about this decision what is shocking to see are filmmakers and those within Hollywood making such a big deal out of this decision. Most notably Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception, Tenet).
In an interview with ET, Nolan had some choice words about Warner Media’s decision.
Pretty shocking to say the least, especially since Warner Bros. has been in the Chris Nolan business for nearly 20 years at this point. It’s also understandable that there would be some hesitance in the transitioning to the streaming release format. But, Warner hasn’t walked away from the theatrical experience altogether. To the contrary they have actually found a way to make it work for both themselves and the theater industry.
Without a doubt, 2021 is going to be another crazy year. As the World continues to open up in a post-Covid society, it is still unknown how life can move forward. This biggest question for the film industry and Hollywood is, How quickly will movie goers be willing to return to theaters? With thousands of layoffs already and hundreds more being very possible Warner Media cannot sit around and hope that everything will be back to normal. They have to move forward with what they believe is best for the company as well as find ways in continuing as a filmmakers studio finding avenues to allow creativity to shine.
Remarks like the one Nolan made are ignorant and very telling of his real reasoning for his craft. It isn’t about the love of the art or entertaining the masses. It is clearly about fame, money and control. If Nolan, or for that matter, any other person in Hollywood cared about the art of filmmaking, they would take this as a challenge in finding new creative ways in making this format as successful and revolutionary as it can be. You’d think a filmmaker like Nolan, who has a knack for pushing the bar and finding new ways to entertain, would gladly take a challenge like this….right?
Despite all of this though, it’s still unknown if this format will work in sustaining Hollywood or if this will be a flash in the pan. Netflix has had success with this format for a number of years, however, nothing can compare to the feeling of sitting in a theater filled with 200 people gasping, cheering or applauding at big moments in a movie. Warner is showing their hand, 2021 is just as much a test as it is about recouping losses from this year of hell. It ultimately comes down to the audience in deciding how the future of movie going will be. You cannot fault a company for trying to stay profitable, you should commend them for trying a new strategy that not only helps themselves but so many others in the process.