Much has been written about the decision by WarnerMedia to put its entire 2021 theatrical slate on HBO Max for the films' respective first month of release, in tandem with a global cinema release. In an interview with Deadline, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar explained why this revolutionary method of distribution is actually in the interests of cinema halls.
"We do believe, and others might have a different opinion, this is the way to do the most important thing we can for the theatrical exhibition community which is to provide them a steady stream of new and fresh movies and motion pictures that they can count on, and consumers can count on. It's something we're vested in and will continue to be vested in."
Kilar brings up a valid point. At the moment, while it will certainly hurt the earnings of movie theaters if they have to compete with home streaming of new movies while they are playing in theaters, it will hurt theaters still more if all the new movies have to be postponed by several months.
The fact is, theater chains are on life support at the moment, and they desperately need new content to show in cinemas. Unfortunately, most major studios have postponed their movies by several months to a year. At least, with WarnerMedia's new model, cinema halls will be able to earn some revenue in the coming months, starting with the release of Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters near the end of December. Ultimately, Kilar suggested that his company's drastically modified release strategy is a necessary response to the way things will be for the foreseeable future.
"We're in the middle of a [global emergency], despite all of us wishing that [it] goes away extremely quickly, like a Band-Aid being ripped off. Everyone we talked to in the medical community suggests that this will persist in terms of consumer behavior and the medical situation for a bit of 2021, if not all of 2021. That's the first and most important context to say. The reason why is, that's what has absolutely shaped this decision. And to get to your question about the financials, our belief is that in the current situation, which is highly unusual, by having this release model - which is a hybrid model of theatrical and on HBO Max for the first month of the film's release - we believe economically first and most importantly, it's the right thing to do for fans, it's the right thing to do for exhibition and the right thing to do for talent, considering the circumstances."
It will be interesting to see how Warner's new release strategy will end up affecting the future of the film industry. The truth is, the box-office for Warner's upcoming slate of blockbuster movies will be highly diminished, while their new streaming service will see huge gains as fans flock to HBO Max to watch the films they have been waiting almost a year for. How much money theaters manage to make off the new distribution model remains to be seen. This was first reported at Deadline.