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Warner Bros. to release all 2021 films to HBO Max, theatres at same time — but only in the U.S.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson star in 'Dune.'. Warner Bros./Chiabella James

UPDATE:

Following the publication of this article, Crave sent the following statement to Global News:

“As with Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. has decided that in the United States, these films will be released in both theatres and on HBO Max (for a limited period of time). The concurrent window on HBO Max is restricted solely to the United States. Warner Bros. is not making such a window available in any other territory, including Canada.

While these movies will be released initially in theatres in Canada, they will be coming to Crave following their standard theatrical windows. Warner Bros. theatrical titles coming to Crave in 2021 include Tenet, The Witches, Wonder Woman 1984, The Little Things, and more. HBO Max Original Films – such as AN AMERICAN PICKLE, SUPERINTELLIGENCE, CHARM CITY KINGS, and the upcoming LET THEM ALL TALK – are all available on Crave, day-and-date with their U.S. premiere.

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A reminder that our HBO Max deal with Warner Bros includes HBO Max Original Programming produced by Warner Bros. Television Group. Warner Bros. theatrical titles that come to Crave in a Pay TV window are part of a separate deal.

These are uncharted waters that we are all collectively navigating so that studios, theatres, and streaming services are able to continue to deliver these incredible movies to as many people as possible, for years to come.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

In the most seismic shift by a Hollywood studio yet during the pandemic, Warner Bros. Pictures on Thursday announced that its entire 2021 film slate — including a new Matrix movie, Godzilla vs. Kong and the Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptation In the Heights — will stream on HBO Max at the same time they play in theatres.

For Canadians, the news is lukewarm, as these rules do not apply north of the border. Warner Bros.’ slate of 17 planned movies will open in theatres here, but will not be available on streaming services. Warner Bros. Canada confirmed the theatrical release plan to Global News on Thursday afternoon.

“HBO Max is only available in the U.S. Canada will launch theatrically along with other worldwide territories,” said a Warner Bros. Canada representative. They did not clarify if any of the 2021 movies would eventually show up on a Canadian streaming service.

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The move follows Warner Bros.’ decision to put Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max in December, as well as in theatres. If that pivot sent shockwaves through the industry, Thursday’s announcement was likely to rattle Hollywood to the core. It amounts to an acknowledgment that any full rebound for theatres is still a year or more away.

According to Bell Media, Wonder Woman 1984 will air on its Crave streaming service following its “standard theatrical windows.”

It’s unclear on what date it’ll begin streaming on Crave, other than it’ll happen at some time next year.

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Among the myriad release-plan changes wrought by the pandemic, no studio has fully embraced streaming as a lifeline. But after disappointing domestic ticket sales for Tenet, and with the majority of U.S. theatres currently closed, Warner Bros. will turn to a hybrid distribution model. Films will debut simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max in the U.S.

After one month, they will stop streaming and continue to play only in theatres.

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do,” said Ann Sarnoff, chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios in a statement. “We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theatres in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”

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Warner Bros. called it a one-year plan. The studio has generally ranked among the top two studios in market share over the past decade — most recently dwarfed only by Walt Disney.

Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate includes many of the expected top movies of the year, including Dune, The Suicide Squad, Tom & Jerry, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, King Richard and Judas and the Black Messiah.

HBO Max is only available in the United States.

With files from Chris Jancelewicz