AMC Theatres chairman and CEO Adam Aron says the movie theater chain will "aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business" in the wake of WarnerMedia's unprecedented move to send its entire 2021 slate to HBO Max. On Thursday, the AT&T-owned company announced Warner Bros. is giving its 2021 slate — including prospective blockbusters The Suicide Squad, The Matrix 4, and Godzilla vs. Kong — day-and-date releases modeled after Wonder Woman 1984. The DC Films production releases into select theaters on the same day it goes to streaming on HBO Max, which will add another 17 films for a 31-day window coinciding with their respective theatrical releases.
"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," Aaron said in a statement. "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."
Aron continues, "Clearly, WarnerMedia 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."
AMC has commenced an "immediate and urgent dialogue" with Warner leadership over Thursday's news, which reportedly reached exhibitors an hour before taking the Internet by storm.
"As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand," Aron adds. "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."
Movie theater stock prices quickly dropped following the HBO Max announcement, including a 17% fall for AMC Theatres. In a statement, WarnerMedia chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff said Thursday's news is a one-year plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"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 U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021," Sarnoff said. "We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we're extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances."