Streaming platforms like Netflix have drastically changed the way we consume entertainment over the last decade. For quite some time, I believed that streaming was the future of the film and television industry. Last week Warner Bros. made the monumental announcement that Wonder Woman 1984, one of their biggest upcoming releases, would be debuting simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day. Subscribers to HBO Max will even be available to watch the movie free. This announcement was a very big deal, that sent shock waves throughout the film industry. The coronavirus outbreak has destroyed so many businesses and industries over the last year, with movie theater chains being hit particularly hard.
If a vaccine for the coronavirus becomes approved for public use in the next few weeks, the earliest the movie theater industry could expect to see any kind of bounce back, would be early summer 2021. With so many projects already finished, in the can, ready to be viewed by audiences, it was only a matter of time before a major studio made a move like this. Most people expected Disney+ to do something like this with Marvel’s Black Widow, while nothing has officially been announced yet, I think this move all but confirms that we’ll see Black Widow on Disney+ sooner rather than later. The point is that for awhile now, we’ve been heading towards a world where the way we watch movies will fundamentally change. The fact that Warner Bros. chose Wonder Woman 1984 to be the film to test the new format was a clear signal that they were taking streaming more seriously than they ever had before. This wasn’t some random film, this was the is the sequel to what is arguably the most successful DCEU superhero film. All the while Disney has been making it very clear that they plan to invest a lot of money and resources into the success of Disney+ and streaming. The current leadership of the company has seen streaming as a new gold rush (and that was before COVID-19 crippled the country).
Which brings me to my main point, today is the day movie industry has been fundamentally and forever changed. Warner Bros. announced today that all of their upcoming 2021 film slate will be available on HBO Max the same day as they’re released in theatres. The company is making sure to emphasize that the films will premiere on HBO Max and in theaters on the same one same day. While some theaters are open and partially operating in the U.S. right now, the main reason for emphasizing a duel streaming and theatrical release, is because many international markets don’t have access to certain streaming service yet. Another factor at play is how the international market, where people are physically going to see films in movie theatres more often. Mainly because most of these countries have the coronavirus under control in a way that the United States does not. Even though, as I mentioned before, Wonder Woman 1984 will be free to HBO subscribers, I am certain that an additional fee will be charged for all of these future releases Warner Bros. has planned for the platform in 2021 which includes 17 major titles such as The Matrix 4, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel Dune, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It, Godzilla Vs. Kong and more. One thing is for certain, it cannot be understated how much of a game changer this is for virtually every aspect of the filmmaking industry. Take a look at this promo trailer:
I’ve always found the inherent dichotomy in the movie industry fascinating. Half of it creatively motivated and the other half motivated by The Almighty Dollar. First and foremost, movie studios are businesses. Just like any other company, the point is to make money. However, in this case, their products happen to movies. The best filmmakers are incredibly passionate about storytelling and the art of film. Occasionally, movie studio executives bump heads with directors on set. Executives worry about the bottom line and the filmmaker is worried about the quality of the storytelling in their film. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens enough for people to notice it every now and again. Telling a great story and making a lot of money, don’t always gel together well.
Because there’s so much money dumped into any given blockbuster, studio executives occasionally give directors “Notes”, which are suggestions, or demands, from the film studio to their directors, that certain changes be made to their movies. “Studio Notes” are often misguided attempts by studio execs who aren’t talented or creative storytellers, trying to influence a film to appeal to the widest possible audience. Executives at these companies don’t think like artists, which is why so many films that are heavily affected by studio interference, turn out pretty shitty. Creative people and business motivate people are basically antithetical to one another.
I brought this up to illustrate that the people who run film studios only care about the facts, how can they have a successful financial year? So making this kind of move, with this slate of major, high profile major films, seems to indicate all that Warner Bros. doesn’t expect movie theaters to bounce back to any kind of normalcy until fall or winter 2021, at the earliest. In a statement by Warner Bros, The company said that when it is completely safe for people to gather together in a movie theater they, plan on re-embracing the movie theater if you need experience. But the question is, at that point will audiences even want to go back to the old ways? I can think of a lot of reasons why I’d rather watch certain films at home rather than in a theatre filled with people You can be sure we will follow this story as it continues develop…
So, what do you think about this move by Warner Bros and HBO Max? Do you like the idea of watching the latest big movies from the comfort of your own home? Or perhaps you enjoy the movie going experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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