The ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the movie industry as we know it, and its ramifications are going to continue into the foreseeable future. Warner Bros., attempting to deal with that uncertain future, has just announced a shocking, unprecedented step.
Today the studio behind some of the biggest blockbusters in the world has announced that its entire 2021 movie slate will follow the model being established by Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas day. Warner’s films will launch in theaters and on-demand on HBO Max simultaneously, available in 4K HDR and free to subscribers in the U.S. for one month, before continuing their theatrical runs domestically and internationally (as with Wonder Woman, no details about a similar limited window has been confirmed for international markets, just that they will continue to receive standard theatrical releases).
This includes massive titles, such as Dune, The Matrix 4, and more—a list of the studio’s releases is below:
- The Little Things (January 29, 2021)
- Tom & Jerry (March 5, 2021)
- The Many Saints of Newark (March 12, 2021)
- Reminiscence (April 16, 2021)
- Godzilla vs. Kong (May 21, 2021)
- The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (June 4, 2021)
- In the Heights (June 18, 2021)
- Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16, 2021)
- The Suicide Squad (August 6, 2021)
- Dune (October 1, 2021)
- Elvis (November 5, 2021)
- King Richard (November 19, 2021)
- The Matrix 4 (December 22, 2021)
- Sherlock Holmes 3 (December 22, 2021)
- Judas and the Black Messiah (TBA 2021)
- MACRO (TBA 2021)
- Malignant (TBA 2021)
- Mortal Kombat (TBA 2021)
HBO Max also released a brief video alongside the news:
“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios, said in a press release. “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.”
Sarnoff continued, “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.”
In a year that has challenged and changed the way movies are made and released, this is a fundamental shift that will have ramifications well beyond whenever it becomes feasibly safe for audiences to return to the cinema—and after studios have spent most of 2020 making small attempts and experiments in the streaming release space, Warner Bros. has now fired a shot that will likely see more studios consider similar sweeping changes to their plans.
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