Earlier this year, Warner Bros. announced that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, its upcoming film Wonder Woman 1984 would be releasing both in theaters and via streaming service HBO Max on the same day, December 25th. Now, in an even more surprising announcement, the studio has confirmed that it plans to release its entire lineup of 2021 movies in this manner.
Warner Bros. cites decreased movie theater attendance as its primary reason for making the decision to release their upcoming films in both theaters and on HBO Max. Studio chairman Toby Emmerich confirmed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that this decision was made after consulting with multiple epidemiologists regarding their projections of what the next year will look like. Emmerich also stated that he felt this model “enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021”.
Currently, Warner Bros. plans to release a total of seventeen films in 2021. Films affected by this hybrid streaming and theatrical release plan include The Matrix 4, Dune, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Godzilla vs. Kong, In the Heights, Tom and Jerry, and more. Rumors currently indicate that some partners, including Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong’s Legendary, were not made aware of this plan prior to its publication.
As HBO Max is only available in the United States, all 2021 Warner Bros. films will release in theaters internationally as planned.
Spokespeople for Warner Bros. have indicated that these measures constitute a “pandemic-only plan,” and that their ultimate goal is to return to releasing films only in theaters once COVID-19 is no longer such a serious issue. However, it is possible that the studio’s decision might have a negative effect on movie theater profits in the coming year. As theaters are already struggling, this could result in serious consequences.
Watch the official announcement trailer here: