Now comes the fuzzy part. What do movie theaters get?
WarnerMedia says there will be 10 new exclusive movies starting on its premium streamer, HBO Max next year, according to CEO Jason Kilar during a earnings call with analysts.
The other part of the equation is still guesswork. WarnerMedia isn’t going to leave theaters hanging. Movie theaters will also get an exclusive window of an estimated 12 to15 movies from the studio -- pretty much what they always had.
For sure, major action/fantasy films will have an exclusive windows on movie theaters. Just look at big initial openings for “Black Widow” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” (Subsequent weekend openings are another matter.)
So what has changed? Well, plenty.
Theatrical exclusive movies will have a shorter window -- 45-day exclusive window for cinemas, versus a 60-to-75 day window theaters have had in the past for major studio releases. All movies studios are operating in this shorter, exclusive time period.
The iffy part is figuring out what “theatrical quality” decisions, if any, will be made by consumers. That is, what time will they devote to going into theaters — and when to stay home for particular films?
Don’t expect crazy-big $75 million to $100 million film budgets to run exclusively on streaming platforms. That may not work out financially. Again, so-called “tentpole” productions will always have its first home in theaters.
HBO Max, and other legacy TV company-owned streaming platforms, have been taking their cue from Netflix -- which has produced some 700 original movies for its platform, according to a study from Ampere Analysis.
Amazon Prime Video is going in the lower-risk financial direction. To date, it has licensed around 11,000 individual movie titles, and is buying MGM -- adding some 2,700 films.
But the new stuff? HBO Max’s experiment with the fantasy/effects-laden “Wonder Women 1984,” which ran in December, will be the exception. Expect lower-volume, more adult-skewing movies and maybe some animated movies heading to streamers on an exclusive basis.
Big-budget movies will need both cinema and streaming usage for them to make financial sense. The film business formula isn’t dramatic movie fodder.