AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros studio on Thursday (December 3) announced that it will make all of its 2021 films available in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service starting on the same day, an unprecedented shift in response to the coronavirus pandemic that sank shares of movie theater operators.
The movies, which are expected to include “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat,” will be available on HBO Max for one month starting on the same day they debut in cinemas, the studio said in a statement.
Other upcoming movies affected include “The Suicide Squad,” a new version of “Dune” and a “Matrix” sequel.
Movie fan Jason Wool told Reuters he understood the business decision. “HBO is a great company, I’ve always liked them. I think that’s a great idea for their profit margins, I guess. So I don’t have anything against it, I think it’s good,” he said.
Alex Gomis, 29, believes safety is paramount right now. “Pretty good thing, you know, considering that we’re living during COVID era right now, and a lot of theaters are not open,” he said. “So it’s a good thing that the streaming services are getting bigger and bigger.”
Studios have been pushing to make their movies available in living rooms sooner than the typical timeline of roughly 90 days after they debut in cinemas. Theaters have long resisted that idea.
Shares of AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theater operator, fell 12%. Rival movie theater operator Cinemark’s shares dropped 10%.
Warner Bros executives said the strategy would be in place for one year and was a response to the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many theaters to remain closed.
(Production: Sandra Stojanovic, Cath Turner)