WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has dramatically underscored streaming’s dominant role in the entertainment industry’s future by announcing that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be released simultaneously on HBO Max and in movie theaters on Christmas Day.
Doubling the impact, Adam Aron, president/CEO of AMC Entertainment — the world’s largest movie theater chain —released a statement supporting
The movie will be accessible at no extra charge to Max subscribers for the first month after its release — likely providing a powerful draw to help accelerate growth of new subscribers, at $14.99 per month, for the service, launched in May.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Kilar declared in announcing that the tentpole movie sequel will be released on HBO Max in the U.S. on the same day as it is released in theaters in the U.S. and worldwide.
“We are, of course, in an extraordinary moment,” Kilar wrote. “This entails a patchwork of regulations, geographic considerations and, most importantly, fan preferences. With that in mind, we see an opportunity to do something firmly focused on the fans: give them the power to choose between going to their local cinema or opening on HBO Max. Super-fans will likely choose both.”
Kilar said that while WarnerMedia will pay attention to theatrical revenues, as adjusted for COVID-19 realities, the studio, its creative partners and exhibitors will all benefit from fan response to the dual platform release. “In parallel, we will be paying close attention to the numbers of families and fans diving into HBO Max” at release and beyond, he said.
While the financial details were not released, the industry assumption is that the cinema chain is sharing in streaming revenues.
AMC’s Aron said that while AMC continues to support the traditional model of exclusive theatrical releases, the company has “clearly demonstrated this year that we are flexible and remain open to evolving long-standing business models, provided that we do so in ways that improve the industry ecosystem for all players.”
“For many months, AMC has been in active and deep dialogue with Warner Bros. to figure out how best this cinematic blockbuster could be seen at AMC Theatres in these unprecedented times,” Aron continued. “Given that atypical circumstances call for atypical economic relationships between studios and theatres, and atypical windows and releasing strategies, AMC is fully onboard for Warner Brothers’ announcement today.”
The coordinated announcements marked a radical change in the relationship between studios and cinema powers since April, when AMC and other chains threatened to stop screening all Universal films after NBCUniversal, following the success of the PVOD release of “Trolls: World Tour,” said the company would likely release some films via PVOD and theaters simultaneously going forward.
Since then, both AMC and Cinemark Holdings, the third-biggest U.S. theatrical movie chain, have reached agreements with Universal Film Entertainment that reduce the chains’ exclusive windows for major movie debuts from the traditional 60 to 90 days to as few as 17 days.
Again, the industry assumption is the chains are sharing in the streaming revenue in those deals.
In October, HBO and HBO Max combined were reaching 38 million U.S. subscribers as of the end of September, but that total includes all 28.7 million subscribers who are eligible to get HBO Max, but not necessarily signed up for it as yet. Digital TV Research recently estimated that HBO Max has 16 million subscribers, and projected it would reach about 28.5 million by the end of 2025.