Hollywood took to arms earlier this month when WarnerMedia announced a bold new theatrical release plan: The films will premiere in theaters and on its streaming service, HBO Max, the same day. This includes highly anticipated blockbusters like Dune, The matrix 4, In the heights, and Godzilla vs. Kong.
Critics mourned the imminent death of cinemas, now without exclusive windows to generate profits. Industry watchers have predicted that the movie industry will change forever. Director Christopher Nolan, whose film Principle was distributed by Warner Bros. earlier this year, denounced the plan and called HBO Max “the worst streaming service”.
Despite the outcry, WarnerMedia maintains the plan is only a temporary measure after a year in which the entertainment industry has been rocked by coronavirus measures at home.
“It’s a pandemic strategy. We have 17 films ready to launch and we want to be able to release them, ”Ann Sarnoff, President and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, said at a Fortune Monday roundtable on the future of media and entertainment.
“What the other studios have done is just throw the box out on the road, if you will, and keep pushing the films,” Sarnoff added. “Or sold them to streamers or broadcast them digitally on [premium video on demand]. ”
Sarnoff said Warner’s strategy is in fact in the best interests of the exhibitor industry, despite criticism from theater aficionados like Nolan and movie chains themselves.
“We really wanted [the upcoming movies] to see on the big screen, ”she said. “We agree that theaters are very, very important. We want to help keep the theaters going. Giving them 17 movies in 2021, most of which will still feel the effects of COVID, we thought that was a very good strategy in that regard.
AMC, the nation’s largest theater chain, doesn’t seem to agree with this sentiment, with CEO Adam Aron saying WarnerMedia “intends to sacrifice a huge chunk of profitability” in order to subsidize HBO Max.
“As far as AMC is concerned, we will do everything in our power to ensure that Warner does not do this at our expense,” Aron said. “We will aggressively pursue economic conditions that preserve our business.”
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