AMC Boss Adam Aron has weighed on WarnerMedia’s news about debuting its entire 2021 theatrical release slate simultaneously on HBO Max, and he isn’t a happy camper. Wonder Woman 1984 as a one-off was fine, but the chain expects to fight hard when it comes to terms. Here’s what Aron had to say today:
“These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, Wonder Woman 1984, being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height. However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theatre business is expected to recover.
“Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.
“We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.
“As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand. So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.”
We heard that the major exhibitors today received an hour’s heads-up from Warners before the news broke. Some smaller exhibitors learned only seven minutes prior to the big HBO Max-theatrical 2021 windows news. By and large, many exhibitors are not happy and see this move by Warner Bros as doomsday. “Obviously they don’t care about theatrical anymore,” one rival exhibition boss said today about Warner Bros.
Warners apparently is being comfortable on terms with exhibition for Wonder Woman 1984, but theaters will fight hard on everything thereafter. If it’s on a streaming service, why charge $14 a ticket to see it when you’re competing against it? $1 or $5 sounds right to them.
Here’s the thing: There might be hope for exhibition. As crazy and rose-colored glasses as that sounds, if the pandemic quells by summer, there conceivably could be competition for screens by studios, and exhibition could block simultaneous theatrical-and-streaming titles entirely. Only time will tell. There’s another mindset that believes exhibition is certain to come out of this pandemic much smaller than anticipated with even more local cinemas closing down.
Practically speaking, we should know via the first three or four titles whether the theatrical-HBO Max model works or not. If a considerable amount of money is lost, and subscribers not gained, AT&T won’t be jolly. Also at risk for Warners going forward per various industry sources: Loss of filmmakers. Filmmakers want to make their movies for the big screen, not the streaming service. It’s nice to cash a check from Netflix, but at the end of the day, it’s also great to relish and reap a big-screen wide release.
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar told us today, the ambitious distribution move was in response to the pandemic in an effort to monetize the slate, respond to fans, and at the end of the day, he believes theatrical will come back.
In the meantime, we wait with bated breath as to what Disney will unload on Thursday, December 10, their investor day which will serve up a ton of Disney+ news. Already we told you that big screen intended releases Cruella, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan and Wendy are headed to Disney+.
AMC’s news follows Cinemark’s response earlier today on the theatrical-HBO Max bombshell; the No. 3 exhibitor saying, “In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis. At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films.”
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