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Warner Bros. Potentially Kills Theaters with HBO Max

  This year has been disastrous for film fans. There were countless incredibly huge blockbusters originally slated for this year including Dune, Black Widow, Eternals, A Quiet Place Part 2, and No Time to Die. There were also some interesting smaller titles such as The Green Knight, Willy’s Wonderland, and Spiral. In what felt like a blink of an eye, all these films and more were pulled from their schedules and tossed into 2021. The next 12 months were slated to be jam-packed with an abundance of films scheduled to roll out. However, Warner Bros. has completely changed the landscape and broken all the rules, doing the unthinkable with their latest announcement. With the popularity of Disney+ and Netflix, it seems Warner Bros. has decided to sacrifice the theatrical experience and bring more attention to HBO Max. Starting with Wonder Woman 1984, all future Warner films will be debuting on HBO Max the same day they’re released in theaters. This includes films like Matrix 4, Godzilla v. Kong, Mortal Kombat, The Conjuring 3, The Suicide Squad, Space Jam: A New Legacy, and Dune. About a month ago, this idea would have seemed impossible, but the longer this pandemic continues, the impossible soon becomes reality. From Disney dropping Mulan and Soul onto Disney+, and Universal making deals with the theaters to cut the theatrical window, nothing seems impossible anymore. However, this news about HBO Max has caused many casualties and even more implications as to where the future of cinema and movies is heading. 

Making enemies with the wrong people

There have been many moving pieces with what feels like something new comes out every day. The first big controversy to come from this announcement was from Legendary Entertainment. Legendary has been a partner with Warner and the two have produced many films together. Included in the films that are scheduled to be released onto HBO Max are Dune and Godzilla v. Kong, with Legendary investing over $100 million dollars into both films. Nothing is official at the moment, but word has it Legendary has been trying to have conversations with Warner about the situation before resorting to legal action. Along with displeasing one of their producing partners, Warner has angered their other partners— the theaters. Although theaters signed an agreement to allow WW84 to go to theaters and HBO Max on the same day, theaters were not made aware of their plans for 2021. Both AMC and Cinemark have made statements about Warner's decision, with both explaining their displeasure in the decision, as well as their plans to prevent it from ruining their businesses. By undermining the theaters, Warner risks losing a healthy relationship with theaters, as well as their creators. Warner’s prized director, Christopher Nolan, expressed his frustrations with the studio. While promoting the release of Tenet on home media, Nolan said, “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.” Nolan has had a great relationship with the studio, making many prestigious films as well as billions of dollars for them, so it comes as a bold statement for him to criticize their decision. Some of Warner’s other great directors, such as James Gunn, writer and director of The Suicide Squad, and Denis Villeneuve, director of Dune, have expressed their displeasure with the decision. There has also been talk of the Directors Guild of America forming a boycott against the studio.

Looking ahead

At the moment, the future looks grim for theater lovers. Theaters have been struggling throughout this pandemic, so this news seems disastrous as there will be many empty seats if everyone is watching movies at home. However, there was an article released by Variety where Patty Jenkins, director of WW84, and Aaron Sorkin, director of The Trial of the Chicago 7, shined some hope for film lovers. They both believe theaters have survived through many things, such as the rise of television, so there doesn't seem to be any reason to doubt they’ll survive the pandemic too.  There’s also some hope of streaming services not being as profitable as once thought. Mulan was a failure, so theaters still seem to be the only place to release blockbusters. Although Disney has realigned its business to be all in one streaming, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that they can still produce movies for theatrical release along with their streaming content. The rise of streaming services seems like a great opportunity to create more jobs for content creators. 2019 was the biggest box office year, with Disney making $11.1 billion dollars, so it’s strange to see Warner want to throw away this potential success. 
Sources: Box Office Pro, Cinemablend, Deadline, Deseret, Screenrant, Vanity Fair Featured Image: Deadline