Warner Bros. is radically changing up its distribution strategy for 2021, releasing all 17 of its movies for the year in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously.
Just as “Wonder Woman 1984” will be released on Christmas Day both in theaters and on HBO Max, Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 slate will play on the WarnerMedia streaming service and theatrically worldwide. However, every film will be available for just one month on HBO Max before it leaves the platform, and it will then continue playing theaters with normal distribution windows.
Again, this applies to every movie on Warner’s 2021 slate — though some are still in production and the exact list is subject to change. That includes major tentpoles like “Godzilla vs. Kong,” DC Films’ “The Suicide Squad,” Timothée Chalamet’s “Dune” and Keanu Reeves’ “Matrix 4.”
The other films currently slated are: “The Little Things,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Tom & Jerry,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical “In the Heights,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “Reminiscence,” “Malignant,” “The Many Saints of Newark,” Will Smith’s “King Richard” and “Cry Macho.”
As with Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” sequel, all of the films will additionally be available on HBO Max in 4K Ultra HD and HDR.
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar in a blog post Thursday emphasized that the plans were a necessary response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and how it’s affected film distribution. “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,” Kilar added. “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.”
Kilar emphasized said that average filmgoers will benefit from the studio’s plan. “We see an opportunity to do something firmly focused on the fans, which is to provide choice,” Kilar wrote, noting that the studio will release a new film about every three weeks. “Whether that choice is to enjoy a great new movie out at the cinema, to open up HBO Max, or to do both.”
Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, noted that the “unprecedented times” led to “creative solutions” to the current problems facing theatrical distribution. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, added, “This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021.”
Check out a quick teaser announcing the plan here.