In December of 2020, it was announced that all new movies released in 2021 by Warner Bros. Entertainment will be available both in movie theaters and on the streaming service, HBO Max on the same day. The first example of this new release schedule was Wonder Woman 1984, which released over the holiday season. Other movies that will follow this pattern include Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, and the fourth installment in The Matrix series.
With this new release strategy, it will now be easier than ever for people to see new movies. Combine this with most movie theaters across the country still not even open yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this strategy is even more enticing. For those that do not yet have an HBO Max account and don’t want to miss out on this new way of catching recent releases, the streaming service costs $14.99 a month and one account can have up to five separate profiles, meaning a group of you and four other friends could set up a joint account and only have to pay $3 each. There is a caveat to this exciting new deal, though. While movie theaters that are actually open can show new movies as long as they would like within reason, they will only be on HBO Max for a month. For instance, Wonder Woman 1984 is no longer available on HBO Max since it has been in release for over a month, so if you want to watch a new movie streaming, make sure you catch it before it’s gone.
One would assume that this can all only be good news. At least, that’s what I thought at first. An easier way for more people to appreciate the hard work that people put into these films? What could be wrong with that? Well, certain prominent filmmakers have exposed some of the flaws in this strategy, most notably Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve’s most recent film, Dune, was scheduled to come out in late 2020 but was delayed to late 2021. The film is an adaptation of the 1965 novel of the same name, and is supposed to be the first in a series of films based on author Frank Herbert’s works. Villeneuve had some strong words about both the new HBO Max release schedule as well as Warner Bros’ parent company, AT&T. Claiming that this decision was made solely to help the company out of debt, Villeneuve said that there was no love for cinema or for audiences. He also noted that this decision will likely kill the Dune movie franchise. Warner Bros. was not the only studio that helped make Dune or many of the other movies that will debut in theaters and HBO Max throughout the year. Another studio, Legendary Entertainment, provided 75% of the production funds for both Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong, and with those movies likely getting the majority of their views through the streaming service when they eventually release, Legendary will not make enough money back for their investments in the two films to break even, thus discouraging investments in future projects.
In summary, while this new release schedule between theaters and HBO Max is pretty good for your average movie-going citizen in the short run, it is not exactly beneficial to filmmakers and can end up hurting the movie industry in the long run, so enjoy these new movies while you can.