Warner Bros just announced that all of their upcoming major releases will time their theatrical releases will simultaneously be available to stream on HBO Max at the same time they release in theaters. Rest in peace movie theaters. You had a nice run, but it’s looking all but over now. WB is the second biggest movie studio in the world, rivaled only by Walt Disney Pictures.
Streaming services killed the movie theater. Much like video slaying the radio star back in the 1980s, we may be looking at another scale-tipping moment in the entertainment industry. With more and more announced movies making their way to various streaming platforms over the last couple of weeks, today could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
WB’s announcement of their entire 2021 movie catalog hitting the HBO Max streaming platform represents a seismic shift in how the movie industry operates. This isn’t a one-off movie testing the water. This is everything.
Just some of the many anticipated movies which will now go direct streaming include but aren’t limited to: James Gunn’s Suicide Squad, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, Lebron James’s Space Jam: A New Legacy, and the Soprano’s prequel The Many Saints of Newark. And of course there is Wonder Woman 1984, which was already announced as being released on streaming.
But perhaps the two biggest movies on the list are Matrix 4 and Dune , both of which were primed for potentially massive openings. The Matrix 4 had a tentative release date of December 22, 2021, But Dune was set to drop even earlier on December 18 of 2020. The news is a massive blow to the brick and mortar movie theater industry and could be the death knell.
Warner Bros on the other hand appears to be stoked about the shift considering how they announced it on Twitter…
WarnerMedia CEO Ann Sarnoff called this move to streaming a “unique one-year plan” but it’s very difficult to see a scenario in which this just isn’t the new path and normal going forward. She cites the inability of theaters across the country to operate even close to full capacity as a major reason for the shift in approach. Give the company a year of data with coordinated scheduling and viewing patterns on the HBOMax platform, combined with possibly continued regulations on numbers allowed in movie theaters and we might never return to sit down in front of the big screen again.
WarnerBros had signaled this might be the case in the last day or so, saying they’d considered making the streaming move around part of their catalog. And they’d started the move to dipping their foot in the hybrid release model earlier in November that Wonder Woman 1984 would release on HBOMax at the same time as theaters. AMC Theaters had tried to put a positive spin on things but they were left in a bind about how to best negotiate.
Now we see the definitive path moving forward and it’s hard to imagine other streaming platforms don’t quickly follow suit with the promise around delayed blockbusters hitting services sooner than later. Black Widow is probably going to get a similar treatment on Disney+ and it stands to reason that platform just says, “screw it” and goes the WB route.
There’s simply too much on the line with the financials around these movies to shutter them indefinitely or kick the can down the road hoping movie theaters will make a full comeback. Each passing day suggests that isn’t happening anytime soon. When we look back on it all, WarnerBros going full streaming will be a seminal moment in the history of the movie industry.