Warner to offer all theatrical releases on HBO Max simultaneously next year

AT&T is hoping to attract new subscribers to its HBO Max streaming service by offering theatrical releases there next year.
(Image: WarnerMedia/AT&T/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

AT&T-owned WarnerMedia announced on Thursday it will offer all of its 2021 movies on streaming service HBO Max at the same time the films are released to movie theaters.

The announcement comes less than a month after executives said they would release the upcoming film “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max when it debuted in domestic movie theaters on Christmas Day.

The move covers 17 feature-length films that were scheduled to be released in theaters in 2021, which amounts to one new movie being offered on HBO Max every three weeks, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

Films included by the simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max release are:

  • Cry Macho
  • Dune
  • Godzilla vs. Kong
  • In the Heights
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • King Richard
  • Malignant
  • Matrix 4
  • Mortal Kombat (2021)
  • Reminiscence
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy
  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
  • The Little Things
  • The Many Stains of Newark
  • The Suicide Squad
  • Those Who Wish Me Dead
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Wonder Woman 1984

“We see an opportunity to do something firmly focused on the fans, which is to provide choice — whether that choice is to enjoy a great new movie out at the cinema, to open up HBO Max, or to do both.” Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia’s chief executive, wrote on Thursday.

Kilar also linked to an earlier blog post that zeroed in on several factors behind AT&T’s original decision to release Wonder Woman 1984 on the streaming service later this month. The ongoing coronavirus health pandemic, which has forced several movie theater chains to close and triggered economic woes for the owners and stakeholders of those businesses and others, was at the top of a short list of reasons why the company settled on a simultaneous release of the film.

That factor and others are now at play for the other 17 movies that will experience a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release next year.

AT&T’s decision to go directly to consumers follows a similar move made by the Walt Disney Company last year. Faced with the closure of movie theaters, executives decided to release its live-action reboot of the film “Mulan” on its streaming service Disney Plus, though with a $30 price tag on top of the service’s $7 a month subscription.

Kilar said AT&T won’t place the same premium on the 17 feature films that will be released through HBO Max — customers will get the films as part of their subscription, with no extra cost tacked on. The films will be available to stream for one month.

Company executives said the strategy of releasing feature films in theaters and HBO Max will only be applied in the United States. In other countries, the films will continue to be released in theaters and then on streaming platforms as usual.

Domestically, the simultaneous release appears to be a temporary strategy: Executives told the Wall Street Journal the strategy only applies to 2021 films.

“We weren’t comfortable sitting on our hands or punting these movies into oblivion,” Carolyn Blackwood, the chief operating officer of Warner Bros., told the Journal.

In November, Kilar echoed a similar sentiment, saying the company wanted to do right by the stars and production crew behind its much-anticipated Christmas Day film.

As part of its commitment to support the people behind the movies, AT&T has agreed to pay a licensing fee for each film that will be released on HBO Max. That fee will then go to support the movie’s talent and production staff, the Journal said, citing a person familiar with the plan.

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