This has not been a good week for people who work at WarnerMedia and its various subsidiaries. It was announced that there were some major shakeups at the top of the executive chain, with names coming and going, and that the turnover is going to trickle down to various other parts of the studio, as the company attempts to “refocus” its energies after the merger with AT&T. And though you would need way more words to accurately dive into what the restructuring and change in leadership mean for the future of WarnerMedia, the company’s CFO, John Stephens, spoke on an investors call recently (via THR) and explained how the studio plans on approaching the future, specifically with its film slate.
While we spent most of the summer trying to figure out when WarnerMedia would release Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (this month in some places, others in September), the studio’s upcoming schedule includes other major films such as “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune,” scheduled for October and December, respectively. And though “Tenet” is arriving in theaters soon, it’s unclear if other WB films will get further delayed or perhaps even sent to other distribution methods.
Further adding to the speculation, Stephens said, “I am not certain where those [films] are going to go.” He added that “further delays in some of the titles” could happen as the studio continues to figure out what the future holds.
The CFO said that the pandemic is “forcing us to look at new ways to distribute content.”
Obviously, we’ve seen plenty of mid-budget features get sent to streaming partners, such as WarnerMedia’s own HBO Max landing the film, “An American Pickle.” But until recently, we hadn’t seen a major studio decide to forgo theaters and release a blockbuster on a streaming service. That is, until Disney announced its plan with “Mulan.” Now, with the precedent set (though it’s not an apples to apples comparison between HBO Max and Disney+ in terms of reach and customer loyalty), we could be looking at WB forced to make difficult choices with some of its major films.
Though, to be fair, it’s unlikely “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune” will be sent to streaming services, as that would leave a ton of box office money on the table, it would appear that delays are definitely not out of the question. It would make sense that WB is taking a wait-and-see approach to confirming release dates for the rest of 2020. We have no idea how badly the pandemic is affecting theater attendance and box office grosses. Until AMC, Regal, and Cinemark reopen, showing what thousands of screens are able to do, it’s clear why studios are reluctant to make any sort of promises.
So, for those wondering about ‘WW84’ and “Dune,” stay tuned!