WarnerMedia today announced plans to release its entire 2021 film library on its streaming service HBO Max at the same time they drop in theaters. That means 17 upcoming films, including the likes of Dune and Godzilla vs Kong will be available on the small screen alongside the big screen.
All 17 of Warner’s films for the next year will hit HBO Max, and be available to its paying subscribers. The entire COVID pandemic, which is responsible for theaters closing, is something most of the film industry is navigating on a case-by-case basis, putting individual films on their streaming platforms. Disney even attempted to have it both ways with the live-action Mulan, charging extra on top of the Disney+ subscription for its initial release. But Warner is the first to go all-in with all of its new releases.
The obvious caveat is that all of the films will only be on the platform for one month after their theatrical debut, after which point they’ll disappear, be theater-exclusive, and then be back on HBO Max when it’s time for their “proper” small-screen release. This is the same model HBO Max is using for Wonder Woman 1984. The films will including Dune, The Suicide Squad, Godzilla vs Kong, The Matrix 4, and Mortal Kombat.
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement, “After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months.” Frankly, I think this is the best option, considering we don’t know how much healthier the world will be in 2021. We could very well not see the back of this pandemic for months, and even that’s using my optimistic voice.
The fear here appears to be that there will never be a time when we can go to movie theaters again — that the whole industry will crumble without the sustenance of moviegoers next year. And even if the pandemic lifts, when there’s the easy and relatively cheap option to watch the movies in your home — hell, on your phone — then what incentive is there to go to a venue with expensive concessions to watch it instead?
Another issue with this decision is that HBO Max is not available for everyone. At the moment it’s only available in the US, and it’s not available on Roku, so that means that only a limited number of people will be able to take advantage of this.
The first of the 2021 movies to drop on HBO Max is The Little Things, which debuts on January 29.