WarnerMedia will launch all 2021 movies simultaneously in cinemas and HBO Max; confirms European rollout plans


WarnerMedia will simultaneously launch all of its 2021 cinematic releases simultaneously on streaming service HBO Max in what will be an aggressive push for the streamer.

The company said that this will be an experiment for one year, with the films having a one month window on HBO Max before leaving the platform for a period of time.

WarnerMedia previously announced this tactic for Wonder Woman 1984, which will release on the SVOD on December 25 for a month. At the time, the company said that it was mulling its cinematic strategy, but few predicted that Warner would go so far as to release each of its films on HBO Max – a drastic measure that not even Disney is taking.

The current 2021 Warner Bros. film slate includes: The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho, and Matrix 4. 

As announced this week with Wonder Woman 1984, all of these films will be available on the streamer in 4K UHD and HDR.

Explaining the move, Warner Bros CEO Ann Sarnoff said: “We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”

Unlike Disney, which almost entirely removed Mulan from cinemas while making Artemis Fowl, Hamilton and Soul streaming exclusives, Warner is still looking to keep US cinemas happy, with the films being released simultaneously in theatres.

Warner will hope that following this new aggressive strategy will attract new users to the platform, while also justifying the top-tier US$14.99 per month pricing to its existing subscribers.

The company also intends on launching an ad-supported HBO Max tier in 2021, though it remains unclear whether there will be any distinction in terms of content offerings.

European expansion

Elsewhere, HBO Max boss Andy Forssell confirmed expansion plans for the streamer in 2021.

Speaking at an online web summit, he said that HBO Max will expand outside of the US in H2 2021, and that it will replace the current HBO-branded SVODs in central and eastern Europe along with the Nordics.

European viewers however will not have the benefit of streaming Warner’s 2021 cinematic releases, with that being a US-only offering for the time being.

Forssell said that “by the end of the year both those regions will be very active” and confirmed that the service will end up in 190 countries with it being “just a matter of how fast we can do that.”

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