While filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve hated it, for those of us who spent 2021 not particularly keen on visiting the outside world, Warner Bros.’ decision to release all of its 2021 cinematic offerings in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously has been a delight. The operative words here are “has been,” because at the moment, WB has no plans to do the same in 2022.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff announced the company’s myriad movies will be initially only released in theaters, no matter what’s going on with the pandemic, at a Bloomsberg conference earlier today: “Have we thought about going back to day and date? Sure, we thought about it, but we have made our commitments to the theaters [and] the agents [and] the talent,” said the CEO. “Everyone was hoping we would be on the other side of the pandemic by now.”
Me too, Ann! But we’ve very much not on the other side, not least because it’s been blocked off by a viral bully named the omicron variant. Still, if WB signed contracts promising a theatrical-only release and tried to renege on the deal, they’d be inviting the sort of lawsuits that Scarlett Johansson slapped on Disney when the company decided to release Black Widow on the Disney+ streaming service alongside theaters, which increased subscribers at the cost of cannibalizing ticket sales—and the money Johansson would have made with a theatrical only release.
All of this means I’m not going to be watching a lot of movies I would have happily (and safely) seen in my home. Next year’s WB movie slate includes The Batman, The Flash, the Aquaman sequel, Black Adam, and DC League of Super-Pets, just to name the DC superhero films. The studio’s other nerdy movies due next year include the Salem’s Lot remake and a certain film from a thoroughly un-Fantastic TERF.
Of course, Warner Bros. can always change its mind, and it may well be forced to, depending on how the pandemic continues to not end. We’ll see.
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