With global lockdowns putting movie theaters out of commission in 2020, WarnerMedia announced an unprecedented move to release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max the same day as theaters. It seems to be panning out well for both parties so far. Right off the bat, the streamer saw a spike in subscribers with the release of Wonder Woman 1984 in December.
Now that hope for a post-pandemic world is just around the corner, Warner Bros. has announced it will be returning to traditional exclusive, although abbreviated theatrical runs for all of its 2022 releases. That means Warner Bros. movies that are set to finish out the year including The Matrix 4 will be the last to be included in that same-day release treatment on HBO Max.
According to Interpret, the studio announced a new deal with Regal Cinemas owner Cineworld for 2022, to give its films to the theater chains for 45 days before they’re available for streaming and home entertainment in the U.S. However, in a recent podcast interview, WarnerMedia CEO Kilar revealed that some specific Warner Bros. films in the future will still adhere to a straight-to-streaming strategy.
“You’ll see two types of movies. There’s certainly going to be the epic and the big motion pictures that will go to theaters, for sure. And they’ll go to theaters first,” Kilar said. “But there’s also going to be a number of movies that we proudly produce at Warner Brothers that go to HBO Max, on the first day as well. I think it’s very fair to say that a big DC movie, ‘The Batman,’ for example… would go exclusively to theaters first and then go to somewhere like an HBO Max after it’s in theaters.”
Streaming services have played a crucial role during the pandemic, so the thought of removing them from the new movie release equation entirely doesn’t seem too probable. It’s likely we’ll continue to see hybrid release strategies over the coming months and years.