WarnerMedia announced it’s putting its entire 2021 movie slate, all 17 films, on HBOMax on the same day the movies premiere in theaters. This shatters the traditional window between theatrical release and streaming that the industry had previously adhered — which helped guarantee exclusivity for theaters and boost their profits. It also gave the studios a chance to market their films again before hitting DVD or video on demand.
This move by WarnerMedia is a titanic shift for the industry. Matt Belloni calls it “the beginning of the end of the theater business as we know it.”
Adding to the shock: WarnerMedia didn’t tell any of its filmmakers or theater companies that it was going to switch to a release format that puts film in theaters and on streaming at the same time. In some cases, filmmakers had made their movies with Warner Bros specifically because they wanted an exclusive theatrical release.
Even once the pandemic is under control and people feel safe to go to the movies again, how many will go when they can watch brand new movies at home?
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar says this change will only be for 2021, but the feeling across the industry is that this particular genie will be hard to put back in the bottle.