Warner Bros.‘ controversial day-and-date release experiment will end after this year. After shattering the traditional theatrical release model with their decision to debut the entire 2021 Warner Bros. slate simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max, WarnerMedia confirmed they’re going back to traditional theaters-only releases in 2022.
In an interview with Vox’s Recode podcast on Thursday, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar confirmed that their one-year experiment of dropping their major releases in both theaters and HBO Max was just that — an experiment. One that WarnerMedia has no intention of continuing beyond 2021, despite the box office and HBO Max success of Godzilla vs. Kong.
“I think it’s very fair to say that a big, you know, let’s say a big DC movie, The Batman for example, it’s very fair to say that that would go exclusively to theaters first and then go to somewhere like an HBO Max after it’s in theaters,” Kilar said, adding:
“I don’t want anyone to misinterpret what we’re doing right now as any indication that we’re not believers in the moviegoing experience. I don’t think you’re going to see the world go back to 2016. The world is changing and that’s the way the world is supposed to work.”
That doesn’t preclude their major releases coming up in 2021. Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Dune, and The Matrix 4 are still on the docket for 2021 and still set to be released simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters. But 2022 films like The Batman, Sesame Street, and Black Adam are set to get the traditional theatrical release in 2022.
Kilar added there will still be a place for movies that will be produced specifically for HBO Max, but he emphasized that the company is committed to the theatrical experience. However, he did have some regret for how the 2021 release strategy was rolled out, which was infamously lambasted by filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve, as well as exhibitors like AMC.
“I think it would’ve been very hard to make everyone happy in terms of before an announcement was made,” Kilar said. “If I had the chance to do it over again, I think it’s very fair to say that we would have taken a couple more days to see if we could have had even more conversations than we were able to have. There is a challenge to that, which is you lose the ability to have your story, the rationale as to why you’re doing it, be cleanly communicated. There’s no doubt that it was bumpy back in early December of last year.”
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