Cinemark has responded to the unprecedented Warner Bros. 2021 release strategy. The studio announced earlier today that they will be releasing all of their 2021 movies in theaters and HBO Max simultaneously. After one month, the movies will move from the streaming platform and will be screened solely in movie theaters. Large theater chains have been trying to negotiate deals since the beginning of this year with varying degrees of success. As of this writing, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) is still trying to get Congress to help out with money before everything has to shut down again.
It does not appear that Warner Bros. talked with theater chains when making their hybrid decision. Cinemark says, “In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis. At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films.” Regardless, this path forward seems to be what could work out best for moviegoers and theaters at the same time.
When Warner Bros. announced that they were releasing Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day, AMC theaters came forward to applaud the decision. “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,” said the chain in a statement earlier this month. “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 Bros.’ announcement today.” It does not seem like Cinemark is sharing that enthusiasm today.
While this could end up working out for all parties involved when all of the kinks are worked out, it has not been great news for theaters. The Warner Bros. announcement sent shares of AMC down 14%, Cinemark down 17%, and IMAX down 7%. This trend could continue for the rest of the year and well into 2021, which could be massively bad for theaters in the long run. Theaters are struggling to stay open now without any new material bringing in guests.
Warner Bros. is calling their new plan a “unique, consumer-focused distribution model” and a “strategic response to the impact of the ongoing global pandemic.” The 2021 Warner Bros. movie lineup includes Dune, Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad, Godzilla vs. Kong, In The Heights, Tom and Jerry, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Many Saints of Newark, and more. The studio has some heavy hitters thrown into this experiment that could very well change how people view movies from here on out. For now, other major studios are keeping their 2021 plans the same, though that could all change in a few days. Deadline was the first to report on Cinemark’s thoughts on the Warner Bros. announcement.