To quote Keanu Reeves from The Matrix (and pretty much every Keanu Reeves movie): WHOA! In a seismic, unprecedented move, Warner Bros. has announced that its entire 2021 film slate will follow in Wonder Woman 1984’s superheroic footsteps and be released simultaneously in theatres and HBO Max. Yes, you read that right. Dune, The Matrix 4, Godzilla vs Kong, The Suicide Squad, In the Heights, and much more will debut on the streaming service on the same day as they hit cinemas. That even includes the new Mortal Kombat reboot despite us hearing just yesterday that it was not going to hit HBO Max.
In a press release, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff explained this unexpected turn of events was prompted by the “unprecedented times” of a world gripped by the COVID pandemic, effectively shutting down cinema chains in several countries.
We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. 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 theaters in the U.S. 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 theaters 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.
Just as with Wonder Woman 1984’s Christmas Day debut, all the films on the studio’s slate will hit cinemas in those countries where they’re still able to be to on their scheduled release dates. In the US, the only country where HBO Max has released thus far, these films will then be available for 30 days free of charge to any existing HBO Max subscribers. And while over two-thirds of US cinema chains are shut down at the moment, those continuing to struggle on will get a tiny bit more incentive as WB will grant them a bigger cut of ticket sales for Wonder Woman 1984. Reports claim this percentage to be as high as 60%, which is wholly unprecedented, but it will also be a one-time thing and not include the 2021 releases. Not all the release dates for these films have been confirmed yet, but here’s the full list of titles:
- Wonder Woman 1984 (25 December 2020)
- The Little Things (29 January 2021)
- Tom & Jerry (5 March 2021)
- The Many Saints of Newark (12 March 2021)
- Reminiscence (16 April 2021)
- Godzilla vs. Kong (21 May 2021)
- The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (4 June 2021)
- In The Heights (18 June 2021)
- Space Jam: A New Legacy (16 July 2021)
- The Suicide Squad (6 August 2021)
- Dune (1 October 2021)
- King Richard (19 November 2021)
- The Matrix 4 22 December 2021
- Judas and the Black Messiah (TBA)
- Cry Macho (TBA)
- Malignant (TBA)
- Mortal Kombat (TBA)
- Those Who Wish Me Dead (TBA)
Those are some incredible titles up there. And it’s kind of great that WB recognizes that the way they just barreled ahead with Tenet’s traditional theatrical release in the middle of the pandemic was a bad move. This gives the studio the big lure it needed to get subscribers over to the recently launched HBO Max (which has had iffy numbers out of the gate) while still keeping international distributors happy. Carolyn Blackwood, Chief Operating Officer for Warner Bros. Pictures Group, does clarify though that “This is a temporary 2021 plan.”
We have to support exhibition with the product. We don’t think we’re changing the economics of these movies any more than the pandemic has. We’re adding another interval and period for revenue with HBO Max.
Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich added to that, saying that “This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021.”
We have a fantastic, wide ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able to 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.
So where does that leave people like us down here in South Africa where these films will still more than likely get traditional theatrical releases even though going to the cinema may not be recommended right now? Well, I’m going to be experimenting with a few VPN solutions that will allow me to sign up to and pay for HBO Max and see how they work out. I’ll keep you folks posted.
Last Updated: December 4, 2020