In what will undoubtedly be a seismic shift in the industry, Warner Bros. has announced a hybrid release model for the entire 2021 film slate.
This is insane. I mean, I’m kind of shook right now. Warner Bros has announced a new plan for their 2021 film slate that completely flips the script and smashes the “release window” between theaters and home releases. They’ve decided to take the model they’ve set in place for Wonder Woman 1984’s release this month, and applying it to their FULL 2021 film slate.
That means everything from Dune, The Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad, and everything in between will be available to watch on HBO Max (free for subscribers) the same day it hits theaters. It’ll be on HBO Max for only a month, however, and will be in theaters exclusively after that until it arrives on 4K/Blu-ray.
Not only should this help ensure that release dates can finally stick, it also gives people the choice of how to watch films without missing out. Even with vaccines on the horizon (fingers crossed!) it will still be some time before anything gets back to “normal” and people will feel safe in theaters once again.
Today, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group announced that it has committed to releasing its 2021 film slate via a unique, consumer-focused distribution model in which Warner Bros. will continue to exhibit the films theatrically worldwide, while adding an exclusive one month access period on the HBO Max streaming platform in the U.S. concurrent with the film’s domestic release. The hybrid model was created as a strategic response to the impact of the ongoing global pandemic, particularly in the U.S. Following the one month HBO Max access period domestically, each film will leave the platform and continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories, with all customary distribution windows applying to the title. All films will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR on HBO Max. This announcement was made today by Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group (of which Warner Bros. is part) and Jason Kilar, CEO, WarnerMedia.
“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Sarnoff. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021. With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films. We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.”
“After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months,” said Kilar. “More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”
“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We have a fantastic, wide ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able get these movies in front of audiences around the world. And, as always, we’ll support all of our releases with innovative and robust marketing campaigns for their theatrical debuts, while highlighting this unique opportunity to see our films domestically via HBO Max as well.”
While they are making the statement that this is only for the one year, there’s no really going back from this type of move. It’s a shift for the industry and I’m interested to see what other studios will be following soon…