Warner Bros to Release All Its Movies on HBO Max and in Theaters


Photo: WarnerMedia

Gavin Clingham, Staff Writer

Last year ended with the controversial film Wonder Woman 1984, which had struggled to execute its release during the pandemic despite the efforts of the director, Patty Jenkins, to give it a theatrical run. Several release dates were attempted, but after a while, Jenkins caved in and allowed the movie to be shown on the streaming service HBO Max while playing in theaters at the same time. This seemed temporary at first, but then Warner Brothers came out with the complete surprise announcement that the entire 2021 movie slate would be released in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. 

What this means is that films like The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom and Jerry, Godzilla vs Kong, The Suicide Squad, and The Matrix 4 will be given a wide release in theaters but they will all be on HBO Max during the run. There won’t be a premier access charge like on Disney+or a $20 on-demand charge. They will be entirely free if you’re already paying for HBO Max. Some believe that this is great and can benefit theaters while others think that this entire decision pulled the trigger on the gun killing theaters for good. 

This decision also angered many of the filmmakers for the films being released. According to reports, none of them were paid like Patty Jenkins was, none of them were asked, and none of them were even told about this new simultaneous release plan. They discovered it through the announcement ad like everyone else. Filmmakers such as James Gunn and Dennis Villeneuve did not like this decision because they wanted their films to be shown in theaters. Also, devout Warner Brothers director Christopher Nolan deeply criticized the decision, saying, “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.” 

With these comments, the studio Legendary (the production company that produced Godzilla vs. Kong and Dune) is potentially nearing a lawsuit with Warner Brothers Studios. Like the filmmakers, Legendary was blindsided by the announcement. Reports came out saying that Legendary did not feel comfortable releasing Dune in the theater/streaming strategy. The studio apparently is planning on adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune into two movies, and they are now worried that this release plan could be detrimental to its long-term success. They are also looking for $250 million to support the budget of Godzilla vs. Kong

This release plan has been intact for nearly three months now. While Wonder Woman 1984 came out to mediocre reviews, it was able to take in success in theaters and on HBO Max. Warner Bros has also been putting up short ads hyping the release plan and every one has gifted more and more new footage from new movies. This plan inspired studios like Disney to try this out, as it released Raya and the Last Dragon through the dual release format.

So, once again, it seems that the future of movie-going is still quite uncertain.