When Warner Media gave HBO Max the rights to stream the biggest Warner Bros. Pictures on the same day as theaters, we all should have known this perk wouldn't last forever. And with more theaters across the U.S. beginning to re-open, today's news signaling the end of simultaneous releases on HBO Max and in theaters seems as inevitable as Thanos snapping his fingers.
This news comes from Deadline (opens in new tab), which reports that "Warner Bros theatrical films will have a 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity at Cineworld’s Regal chain," in 2022. This means that the remaining films that are set to hit HBO Max on Day 1 — which include Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, The Suicide Squad, Dune, and The Matrix 4 — will be the last of the HBO Max experiment. So you better be ready to head out to a theater to see 2022's The Batman movie — which will get to rake in all the money in its theatrical run.
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The plan for these movies has been that they will be on HBO Max for the first 30 days that they're also in theaters — before disappearing from the streaming service.
It's hard to figure out of this HBO Max experiment was worth it. WarnerMedia has not released any metrics for the big movies such as Wonder Woman 1984 or Judas and the Black Messiah. Merely, WarnerMedia said (opens in new tab) WW1984's release on the streaming service had "broken records and exceeded our expectations," which could mean anything.
Take Netflix's viewership numbers as an example. The figures that streaming service releases only reflect people who "chose to watch and did watch for at least 2 minutes." And that metric would count me as someone who watched The Witcher, even though I didn't go past Episode 1. So who knows how HBO Max might be arriving at its vague figures?
Warner's decision to take its movies straight to its streaming service don't seem to have ruffled feathers outside of its own creators. For example Christopher Nolan (opens in new tab) was incredibly outspoken in public with his reactions, saying "Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak." He espoused these views while promoting Tenet, which arrives to HBO Max (which he called "the worst streaming service") on May 1 of this year.
Universal's similar-but-different decision to put movies on paid video on demand during the first months of the pandemic also caused backlash at first. AMC (opens in new tab) threatened it would boycott Universal movies, but the two later worked things out with a deal (opens in new tab).
Alongside the announcement about theatrical exclusivity, Cineworld announced it will be reopening its Regal cinemas in the U.S., starting with Godzilla Vs Kong on April 2 (days after its March 31 release). More Regal theaters will re-open on April 16, for Mortal Kombat (another HBO Max movie).
This 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity may be the new standard for shorter windows before streaming. Paramount Plus will get Mission: Impossible 7 and A Quiet Place: Part II after 45 days of their theatrical run.
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