The latter half of 2020 has been awash with news of major theatrical releases coming to streaming platforms, like Disney’s Mulan on Disney+. But Warner Bros. is one-upping everyone, including itself: every movie it had slated for 2021 will release on HBO Max the same day it comes to theaters, for no additional charge. It’s an unprecedented move from a major Hollywood studio.
Essentially, WB is treating HBO Max like its own private theater, which just happens to sit in your living room. The first-run movies will be available on the streaming service for one month concurrent with their initial theatrical release, after which they will be gone for the usual home release period. Like the similar Christmas release of Wonder Woman 1984, HBO Max subscribers will not need to pay any additional fees to access these new movies.
I got you something ✨nice✨ this year:
🎁 The biggest movie premieres
🎁 In theaters and on HBO Max the exact same day
🎁 Beginning December 25 with #WonderWoman1984#HBOMax #WBPictures https://t.co/BZgFFRrrg2 pic.twitter.com/J2KBdWd9Tf
— HBO Max (@hbomax) December 3, 2020
The list of big-budget films that will hit HBO Max and theaters on the same day is staggering. These are some of the biggest releases on the calendar. A few highlights of the projected 2021 WB release schedule include:
- The Little Things
- Judas and the Black Messiah
- Tom & Jerry
- Godzilla vs. Kong
- Mortal Kombat
- Those Who Wish Me Dead
- The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
- In The Heights
- Space Jam: A New Legacy
- The Suicide Squad
- The Many Saints of Newark
- Cry Macho
- King Richard
- Matrix 4
It seems like someone at Warner Bros. determined that another year of COVID-depressed theater sales (or hopefully less, if vaccine distribution is fast enough) was something of a wash, and an opportunity to give the company’s streaming platform a big boost over its competitors. And it is a big boost: Disney+ is the only similar platform that could possibly match this move, with direct ties to another Hollywood mega-movie catalog.
The press release is very specific about this move being for 2021, so it looks like this is a limited test run, and it may not continue after next year. But this is a strange time for movie distribution: if it turns up as a big win for Warner Bros., it might change the relationship between theaters and streaming movies forever.
Source: Warner Bros. press release