WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar on Thursday confirmed that Warner Bros.’ movies in 2022 will go back to playing in theaters exclusively before they hit HBO Max or the home media market.
Speaking to Vox’s Recode podcast on Thursday, Kilar explained that despite the studio’s success releasing 2021 films like “Godzilla vs. Kong” in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, that will change at the end of the year. After that, if you want to see 2022 movies like “The Batman” when they’re first released, you’ll only be able to see it in a theater first.
“I think it’s very fair to say that a big, you know, let’s say a big DC movie, ‘The Batman’ for example, it’s very fair to say that that would go exclusively to theaters first and then go to somewhere like an HBO Max after it’s in theaters,” Kilar said.
Last month, WarnerMedia struck a deal with Cineworld, the company that owns Regal Cinemas, to offer a 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity on the studio’s films, with certain provisions, beginning in 2022.
Warner’s announcement at the end of December last year led to a lot of industry hand-wringing, as well as some doubts that the studio would be able to put the genie back in the bottle and expect people to return to theaters after providing the day-and-date option, making its entire 2021 slate available on HBO Max for one month the same day it hits theaters.
But Kilar told Recode that he’s “very happy” with the performance of the release strategy so far, citing the strong box office for “Godzilla vs. Kong” of $48.5 million domestically, as well as the film topping HBO Max. He said that the strategy has also helped the new streamer reach new subscribers and reduce churn among existing subscribers.
And while Kilar said there will still be a place for movies that will be produced specifically for HBO Max, he reiterated that the company is committed to the theatrical experience.
“I don’t want anyone to misinterpret what we’re doing right now as any indication that we’re not believers in the moviegoing experience,” Kilar said. “I don’t think you’re going to see the world go back to 2016. The world is changing and that’s the way the world is supposed to work.”
Movies like “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Dune” and “The Matrix 4” are still on the horizon for Warner Bros. in 2021, but anticipated films like “Sesame Street,” “The Batman,” the untitled Elvis biopic and “Black Adam” are some of the movies expected in 2022.
Kilar did however express some regret at the rollout of the studio’s 2021 release strategy, which infuriated top filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve and came as a shock to agents and exhibitors alike.
“I think it would’ve been very hard to make everyone happy in terms of before an announcement was made. If I had the chance to do it over again, I think it’s very fair to say that we would have taken a couple more days to see if we could have had even more conversations than we were able to have. There is a challenge to that, which is you lose the ability to have your story, the rationale as to why you’re doing it, be cleanly communicated,” he said. “There’s no doubt that it was bumpy back in early December of last year.”
Listen to the whole podcast with Kilar via Vox’s Recode.