Warner Bros to simultaneously release all 2021 films on streaming service and in theaters

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Los Angeles. Warner Bros. Pictures Group announced Thursday that the Hollywood studio will release all its 2021 films on streaming service and in theaters at the same time, an unprecedented move amid the ever-changing movie industry.

The entire anticipated 17-film 2021 Warner Bros. slate, including big-budget blockbusters like “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Dune,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “The Matrix 4,” will be released throughout the coming year in theaters and on HBO Max streaming service at once in the United States, according to the studio.

“It has committed to releasing its 2021 film slate via a unique, consumer-focused distribution model in which Warner Bros. will continue to exhibit the films theatrically worldwide while adding an exclusive one-month access period on the HBO Max streaming platform in the U.S. concurrent with the film’s domestic release,” the studio said in a statement.

Warner Bros. Pictures Group is part of U.S. entertainment giant WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group while HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer service that debuted in spring 2020.

Following the one-month HBO Max access period domestically, each film will leave the platform and continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories, with all customary distribution windows applying to the title, the studio added.

“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group.

“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do,” said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group.

“We know new content is the lifeblood of 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,” Sarnoff noted.

Calling this unique one-year plan “a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors,” she said “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.”

Amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement came after the studio’s earlier decision to release “Wonder Woman 1984” both online and in theaters in the United States on Dec. 25.

The pandemic is changing Hollywood and its movie-release patterns as major studios make their movies available for streaming service.

The new change, analysts say, is a major blow for U.S. theater chains, which are suffering financial hardship after months-long pandemic-induced closure and are desperate to attract moviegoers with new titles.

U.S. entertainment industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter called the studio’s latest move an “unprecedented move” that is likely to catch theater owners off guard and upsets a model that has been in place for decades.

Vanity Fair magazine described this as “an industry-changing maneuver that would have seemed unimaginable at this time last year.”

Likewise, “the shocking move to release movies day-and-date underscores the crisis facing movie theaters and the rising importance of streaming services in the wake of a global health crisis that’s decimated the film exhibition community,” commented Variety magazine.

In 2019, Warner Bros. Pictures Group earned 4.4 billion U.S. dollars in worldwide receipts, according to the studio. Enditem (Xinhua)

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