Unless you have been avoiding all film news over the past couple of days, you probably already know that WarnerMedia has publicly announced the company’s decision to simultaneously release its entire 2021 Warner Bros. film slate day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max. The decision has sent shockwaves through the industry, with many wondering if this signifies the death of the theatrical experience as we know it. According to WarnerMedia CEO, Jason Kilar, this isn’t a strategy aimed at hurting anyone. In fact, this is a plan that is going to help everyone, or so he thinks.
Speaking to Deadline, Kilar expressed his concern for the theatrical release industry in 2021, saying that a vaccine probably won’t be readily available until well into the new year, and the box office won’t see “normalcy” until possibly the end of summer or later. And for those reasons, the decision to shift everything to theaters AND HBO Max was made.
Kilar explained, “And to get to your question about the financials, our belief is that in the current situation, which is highly unusual, by having this release model — which is a hybrid model of theatrical and on HBO Max for the first month of the film’s release — we believe economically first and most importantly, it’s the right thing to do for fans, it’s the right thing to do for exhibition and the right thing to do for talent, considering the circumstances.”
This all leads to the question of the day—how bad is this going to hurt theaters around the United States? Well, if it helps those theaters feel better, WarnerMedia’s CEO is still fully committed to the theatrical experience.
“The short answer to your first question is I absolutely believe in the theatrical marketplace,” assured Kilar. “I say that with conviction because I know fans care about it. I know I count myself as one of the more ardent fans of the theatrical experience. I believe 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now, there is going to be a robust theatrical marketplace, and I say that because there are very few things that can compete on a Friday night when you’re going out with someone that you love, to a cinema, and being told a great story on a gigantic screen, in a communal setting and in an environment that is new and interesting to you. And I just think that’s going to persist for decades and beyond that. That’s the quick answer to your first question.”
He continued, “As to what the world looks like after 2021, I have no grand proclamations to make. Our focus, candidly, is on the here and now. We’re focused on getting through this pandemic like any business is, and we’re putting a lot of brain cells against what the right thing is to do to serve fans and to serve partners and to serve ourselves.”
The first film that tests this new paradigm is “Wonder Woman 1984,” which arrives in theaters on December 25 if you’re a theater owner in the United States, good luck.