Warner Bros' decision to simultaneously release its entire 2021 slate of films on HBO Max along with theatres sparked mixed reactions from theatre owners
The response to Warner Bros’ streaming plan has been certainly less scathing than it was initially expected by industry insiders. Many theatre owners were taken aback by the big announcement while others chose to quietly go along with the decision for now.
AMC’s CEO Adam Aron was the lone voice of defiance and the National Association of Theatre Owners is yet to respond to the news.
Some from the exhibition community are of the opinion that once vaccines normalize social movement, things will go back to their old ways.
"Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max startup. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business,” said Adam Aron.
AMC, previously, agreed with a day-and-date release for 'Wonder Woman 1984' in light of the pandemic, but was surprised by Warner Bros’ decision to release its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar personally wanted to increase the subscriber base of HBO and introduce exciting, new changes.
“We're excited about the vaccines and the programs that are going to be to distribute them, but talking to the epidemiologists that have been consulting with us, we think it will be toward the end of the year that it seems like movie theaters and Broadway theaters will return to normalcy. It could be a pretty long time,” Warner Bros Pictures chief Toby Emmerich told The Hollywood Reporter.
“We thought it was better to guarantee as many movies as we could for the year for the global theatrical marketplace, so they would stay open and know they have product coming."
“These companies are all taking major steps to drive subscribers, and Warner Bros. is way behind and they needed to do something big to get their sub numbers moving a lot higher,” explained Eric Handler of MKM Partners Handler.
Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, told THP, “At the end of the day, it’s a risk. It’s not just a risk for the theaters but it’s a risk for the intellectual properties that Warner Bros. has because if the experiment doesn’t pay off, they have no committed some of their biggest potential moneymakers to a platform, [HBO Max], that is unproven.”
Robbins added, "It is surprising that they jumped on this new strategy before seeing how the first experiment goes with Wonder Woman. They are cashing in their chips for next year without seeing those results."