Warner Bros. to bring 2021 films to HBO Max, theaters simultaneously

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Warner Bros. announced Thursday that the company's entire 2021 film slate, which includes The Suicide Squad and Matrix 4, will premiere simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters, expecting the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to keep moviegoers at home.

The new films will be available for one month on both HBO Max and in theaters. After that period, they'll be removed from the streaming platform, but will continue to screen theatrically in the United States and internationally.


"We're living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group," said Ann Sarnoff, CEO and chairwoman of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group.

"No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of the theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021."


Movie theaters worldwide were shuttered this spring as countries entered lockdowns to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many have reopened in some areas, but at reduced capacity.

Major studios also delayed releasing their 2020 blockbusters, or sent them straight to streaming as it became clear theaters would be closed for months on end.

Disney released the live-action version of Mulan on its streaming platform, Disney+, after months of delays and charged audiences an additional fee to watch it. The company has continued to push back the release of the next film in the Marvel franchise, Black Widow.

Warner Bros. also delayed the latest installment of the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman 1984, before announcing it would be coming to theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day.

Dune, Mortal Kombat, Godzilla vs. Kong, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Many Saints of Newark, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In the Heights, The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Those Who Wish Me Dead, Reminiscence, Malignant, King Richard and Cry Macho are among the films expected to arrive in 2021 on HBO Max and in theaters.

There will be no extra cost to HBO Max subscribers, and every film will be available to stream in 4K Ultra HD and HDR.


"With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren't quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films," Sarnoff said.

Shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings, which operates AMC Theaters, dropped 16.2% near closing Thursday in response to the Warner Bros. announcement. Cinemark Holdings Inc. was down 20.23% and Imax Corp. was down 7.26%.

Shares for AT&T, which owns Warner Bros., were up 0.21%.

To cope with the decline in in-person movie attendance, some theaters, such as AMC, have launched programs to allow guests to rent entire theaters for screenings.

"In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis," a Cinemark representative told CNBC on Thursday. "At this time, Warner Brothers has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films.

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