WarnerMedia confirms return to cinema-first for 2022


(Pocket-lint) – WarnerMedia has confirmed its plans to return to cinema-first movie releases from 2022.

After shifting its schedule due to the global pandemic, and offering HBO Max users the chance to stream new films on the same day as they released in theatres, CEO Jason Kilar outlined to Recode that the old model will be coming back from next year.

“I think it’s very fair to say that a big, you know, let’s say a big DC movie… it’s very fair to say that that would go exclusively to theatres first and then go to somewhere like an HBO Max after it’s in theatres,” he said on the Recode Media podcast.

• All the Warner Bros movies premiering on HBO Max in 2021

This means HBO Max users will be able to stream the latest movies at some point after the cinema release, though the day-one viewing option won’t be sticking around. Currently, new Warner Bros releases are available to subscribers for 30 days for no extra cost – a list that includes Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Dune, The Matrix 4 and Space Jam: A New Legacy

The return to the previous release pattern, for example, means that The Batman – which is slated for a March 2022 release – will require fans to head to the cinema, while this year’s Suicide Squad will be available to stream at the same time as the cinema launch.

This isn’t entirely a shock, of course, since it was already common knowledge that certain picture houses owned exclusivity for all Warner Bros theatrical releases before they headed to streaming platforms. In the US, Regal Cinemas has the rights for 45 days, while Cineworld in the UK gets a head start for between 31 – 45 days. It’s likely that similar deals are also in place with other chains.

Given that the initial move was widely criticised by those within the movie industry, coupled with the relative success of Godzilla vs. Kong (pulling in $50 million on its opening weekend, despite also being available to stream), it’s no surprise to see WarnerMedia return to the original scheduling. 

Whether the model to stream simultaneously will stay afloat through other platforms and studios remains to be seen.

Writing by Conor Allison.

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