Skip to main content

Warner Bros. Execs Skip Facing Theater Execs At CinemaCon, Talk ‘Tough And Controversial’ Choices Made

Godzilla knocks out King Kong in trailer still 2021

CinemaCon has for the first part of the week been a love letter to cinema. Panels from Sony and MGM recommitted to theatrical releases. However, there was always a question of how the Warner Bros. panel was going to go, giving that CinemaCon is a week that is all about movie theaters and Warner Bros. has for the last year distributed its movies in theaters while also making them free the same day on HBO Max. Well, the panel has come. The answer? Warner Bros. execs didn’t show up.

Instead, Marcus head honcho Rolando Rodriguez came onstage and make the introductions to the Warner Bros. panel. Marcus’ CEO spoke out about the studio’s “commitment to film,” leading to some titters from the audience. Unfortunately, the actual people who head up Warner Bros. did not come to the event to talk about the decisions made in 2021 head on. Instead we heard from them via a CinemaCon video clip.

The execs cited “family commitments” keeping them off the stage. With the Delta variant, this isn’t exactly an abnormal decision, but given the choices Warner Bros. has made throughout the year, it was an interesting one. Instead, we got a video clip that introduced clips from the movies coming to the big screen (and HBO Max) over the next six months or so. There's a lot of great-looking stuff coming, including Matrix 4 (which just got a title) and the long-awaited Dune, not to mention The Batman but a lot of the focus was still on the decisions made over the past year

Jeff Goldstein and Andrew Cripps spoke out about "all important partners in global distribution" as well as what's coming in an "even more vibrant 2022." He then began addressing the decisions the company has made during the ongoing pandemic, calling the choices "tough" and "controversial." He noted:

Going to the theater is simply in our DNA and that's never going to change. The communal experience of laughing, crying and being scared together cannot be replicated in any other way. In the response to the unprecedented pandemic in 2020 and 2021, we had some tough and controversial choices. It was a bumpy start, but successfully we worked through it with all of you, our partners.

In recent days, Warner Bros. has made the decision to revert back to an exclusive window for theatrical releases in 2022. A deal was signed with AMC earlier in August to return to a 45-day release window before turning movies to other platforms, like VOD or streaming services such as HBO Max. One exec also put it, watching movies on your TV is all good and well, but it “turns out size does matter.” Warner Bros. had also made headlines for some other issues for putting same day movies on HBO Max over the last year, as several of its partners, most notable Legendary, the studio behind Godzilla vs. Kong and also the Dune team were unhappy about the decision. At one point, the idea of legal action was even floated around.

To note, Warner Bros. did put out 13 movies during the pandemic-- a fact that was also noted in the presentation. That is a number larger than what other studios put into theaters over the past year, though that comes with the additional HBO Max caveat. Christopher Nolan also championed the theatrical experience with Tenet and became the first filmmaker to put out a movie during the pandemic. Other Warner Bros. films, including Godzilla vs. Kong followed suit and were able to make early strides in helping to get the box office back on its feet after the lights dimmed. But given movie theaters have still lost their exclusive windows with the studio for the remainder of the year, it's difficult to keep the focus on those points.

Jessica Rawden

Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.