Warner Bros. for HBO Max andfilm releases
It turned out that Wonder Woman was actually a canary in a coal mine in 1984. In a press release this morning, Warner Bros. Picture Group has announced that it will release all its listed films at the same time in the cinema and at HBO Max in 2021, as it will for the upcoming DCEU film. Each film will be available for one month via a streaming service at no extra cost to subscribers, after which it will leave HBO while it is screened in the cinema. The films will only be shot at HBO Max in the United States, but they will be shown in theaters around the world. Ann Sarnoff, President and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks, said it was a reaction to the VIDOC 19 pandemic and their attempt to save their potential business while the cinemas remain closed or have limited capacity and cinemagoers are unable or unwilling to visit the local cinemas.
Theatre networks are starting to respond to this Warner Brothers initiative. Cinemark has made a very general statement: In view of the current working conditions, we make short-term booking decisions on the basis of the films. To date, Warner Bros. has not provided information on the hybrid distribution model for its films in 2021. Basically, it means we have to say something, I think. The CMA, on the other hand, was not at all satisfied and came up with a trip. You can read the full statement of CEO and Chairman Adam Aron here, but basically he accuses Warner Bros. of withdrawing to subsidise his start-up HBO Max and promises to aggressively seek economic conditions that will allow [their] company to continue to operate.
Just as Warner Bros. said that the 1984 release of HBO Max’s Wonder Woman would be enough to coincide with the theatrical premiere, many people say it’s a deadly box-office hit, or at least the beginning of the end. And maybe they’re right, it’s certainly not good for them, and I fully understand the anger of the CMA. However, the imposition of a travel ban depends on whether or not it is temporary. I believe you will. I got involved when I talked about Cherry’s plans to make movies, but I don’t think it’s a viable way to make movies in the long run. Adam Aron is probably right that they use it to promote their burgeoning streaming service, which is a good thing at the moment, but in fact he just makes the best of a bad situation. Sooner or later, WarnerMedia will not be able to attract more HBO subscribers and when that happens, their films will no longer be profitable. Some small films like Malignant or King Richard may come as a surprise, but take a look at some of the films that Warner Bros. will release in 2021 according to this press release. Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, Matrix 4 and the Suicide Squadron were all worth hundreds of millions of dollars. You won’t make any money with these films at the cost of subscription fees from year to year, especially if people only spend one ticket (less here in New York!) for the entire streaming service per month. And it’s an equal ticket for the family, not one for every family member; then there are friends coming together to watch movies, or a couple going out. You’ll get regular customers (probably not for Godzilla vs. Kong, but Dune looks pretty cool), whose business will be lost. I can see how that happens when everyone is excluded, but it doesn’t make sense financially.
At the same time, I don’t blame the AMC for pushing him away. Just as Warner Bros. looks after his own interests, theatre networks can lose most of their business. AMC in particular was already in trouble before the theatres were closed and then, for example, opened to five people in three or four states. At the beginning of this year the intention was to file for bankruptcy and since then the situation has only worsened. They are now told that one of the biggest film studios in the industry will take a machete for its potential profit next year. They have to do something if they seem to be fighting for their investors and shareholders. After all, I don’t think their efforts will be worth much. What can they really do? Refusing to watch Warner Bros. movies. Maybe, but what if Disney does, or one of the other studios Disney hasn’t bought yet? You don’t have any more movies to attract customers. At some point they will probably have to bite the dust and hope for the best.
I don’t think theatre networks should worry too much. They will certainly lose money, but as soon as the theatres are open (hopefully next year), people will come back. These big releases are things that, if you tend to see them, you should see them on the big screen. Do you really want your first Dune show – or a Danny-Vilnev movie – to take place in your living room? Do you want to see a big monster on your couch instead of in a busy showroom? And even though it’s not a blockbuster, I don’t like the idea of missing a Clint Eastwood movie like Cry Macho in the cinema, especially when Clint is in the picture and I know I’m not alone. It won’t be easy for a while, it’s impossible to move. But as soon as we can finally put this ridiculous and despotic absurdity behind us, the cinema landscape will correct itself, albeit slowly. Whether it’s AMC, Regal, or the chains we now know are still in balance – and again, I don’t blame any of them for fighting with those teeth and nails – but the theatres will be back, whatever the name on your popcorn bath.
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