Warner Bros. just dropped a bombshell announcement that could potentially change the way we watch movies forever.
The studio on Thursday revealed plans to debut every film it has scheduled for 2021 on HBO Max in the United States on the same day that it arrives in movie theaters. The list of movies Warner Bros. has scheduled for next year includes Godzilla vs. Kong, The Suicide Squad, Dune, and The Matrix 4.
Other films set for 2021 that would fall under this plan include Mortal Kombat, Tom and Jerry, The Many Saints of Newark, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In the Heights, and Space Jam: A New Legacy, among others. Warner Bros. previously made the decision to debut Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and HBO Max at the same time this Christmas, and it's now fully committing to this strategy at least until 2022. The movies will be available to watch on HBO Max for one month, after which they'll still be in theaters.
Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff described this as a "unique one-year plan" that was called for because "most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021." She added, "We're living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions."
In September, Warner Bros. released Tenet as the first major tentpole film back in U.S. theaters after they reopened. It played exclusively in theaters, but the film disappointed at the U.S. box office, leading major studios to largely delay their movies into next year. It remains to be seen whether other big studios like Disney could follow Warner's model — and if theaters can actually survive an entire year not being able to exclusively show films.
Indeed, as the news broke, Variety's Brent Lang speculated this may be "the day the theaters died," while The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg wrote, "The moviegoing experience will never be the same." Brendan Morrow