“Wonder Woman 1984” is no one-off.
Warner Bros. says it will release its new movies in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time for the next year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has turned the traditional film distribution business upside down.
AT&T Inc.-owned Warner Bros. said the plan was temporary and did not represent a new business model.
Simultaneous releases have long been a source of bitter dispute between studios and theaters, but the pandemic has given movie distributors the ability to experiment.
Warner Bros. said Thursday it would make movies such as the upcoming “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat” available on HBO Max for 31 days starting when they’re released in U.S. cinemas. After that period, the movies will disappear from the platform and continue to run in multiplexes.
The complicated new release plan is a response to a pandemic that has kept half of American theaters shuttered for months, making it difficult for studios to release films the normal way — by putting them in theaters for three months before making them available for home viewing.
The strategy could also give a much-needed boost to HBO Max, which Warner Bros.’ parent company launched in May in hopes of competing with Netflix and Disney+ in the digital arena. Warner Bros. already disclosed that it would release “Wonder Woman 1984″ simultaneously for streaming and in theaters, a tactic known as “day-and-date” in industry jargon.
Burbank-based Warner Bros. said the strategy would be in effect for the next 12 months and would include currently scheduled movies including “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Tom & Jerry,” “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” “In the Heights,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “Dune” and “The Matrix 4.”
The new release method follows major moves by rival Universal Pictures to shorten the theatrical release window to as few as 17 days through deals with AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Cineplex. Movies usually play in theaters for 74 days before becoming available for video on demand.