At the end of 2020, Warner Bros. made the industry-shaking announcement that all of their movies would be getting released simultaneously in theaters and on their new streaming service, HBO Max. The results have been a bit of a mixed bag ever since – with filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan not hiding their views on the move, and ongoing controversy regarding digital services stealing audiences away from cinemas. The distribution plan is scheduled to continue through the end of December, a time period that includes the release of the untitled Matrix 4 – but thanks to a new deal struck between the studio and AMC Theatres, we know it won't be stretching into 2022.
The Hollywood Reporter has news of a new agreement made between Warner Bros. and AMC Theatres that will see all of the former's releases next year get a 45-day exclusive window on the big screen. It was never the studio's plan to continue their day-and-date releases in theaters and on HBO Max past 2021, but this is the first move we've seen them make to indicate that things will change past the end of December.
While this is a deal that surely has been in the works for a while between WB and the world's biggest movie theater chain, it's hard not to acknowledge the significance of it coming in the aftermath of a weekend that saw James Gunn's The Suicide Squad underperform at the box office. As I noted in my Sunday column, the depressed ticket sales are likely the result of rising COVID-19 numbers influencing consumer behavior. With concerns about the Delta variant increasing nationwide, it's easy to imagine that individuals who would have gone to see the R-rated DC blockbuster in theaters instead opted for the convenience of watching it on HBO Max.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has not released the traffic or subscriber statistics related to the release of The Suicide Squad on the streaming service, but the studio has said that the film had the second best digital opening weekend of the 2021 slate thus far.
As for the new deal with AMC Theatres, the details may seem familiar to those of you who have been keeping track of developments in this part of the industry. It was back in February that Paramount announced all of its upcoming titles would be getting a 45-day exclusive window in theaters before becoming available to stream on Paramount+, and now Warner Bros. has essentially matched it. And while a month-and-a-half isn't a terrifically long time for a movie's run on the big screen, it certainly is a big increase from the 17-day deal that AMC made with Universal Pictures in the early months of the pandemic.
Warner Bros.' first release scheduled for 2022 is the developing Sesame Street film that is presently scheduled to hit theaters on January 14, 2022 – so we'll find out then how this system works.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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