The entertainment business was stunned to learn WarnerMedia's plans to release their entire slate of 2021 films — including The Suicide Squad, The Matrix 4, Space Jam: A New Legacy, and much more — in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day. Cynical ideas led people to believe this will cause the death of traditional movie theaters while others thought it was an attempt to give the new streaming service a huge boost. And while those motivations aren't unlikely, HBO Max and WarnerMedia execs still had to do a lot of convincing to their bosses at AT&T.
A new report from Bloomberg details WarnerMedia boss Jason Kilar's plot to make this unprecedented move, which received much resistance internally and from parent company AT&T. But frequent collaborator Jason Blum said it was a bold move that could pay off in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"HBO Max just laid down the gauntlet -- there’s no other way to say it," said Blum."If you want to keep up with pop culture, you will want to see those movies and subscribe to HBO Max."
According to the report, Hollywood was shocked by the move. This left many executives, filmmakers, actors, crew members, and everyone down the line to receive a smaller paycheck without the promise of typical box office returns. However, with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, there's no telling when any of these films will get the opportunity to premiere in theaters.
Warner Bros. Pictures attempted to kickstart the industry and maximize profits on the Christopher Nolan blockbuster Tenet, which released earlier this year. Unfortunately, that movie failed to ignite the box office, leaving Kilar and AT&T boss John Stankey to come up with this bold plan for HBO Max.
“We wake up every day thinking, ‘How can we increase the value of HBO Max?’” Kilar said. “When we thought about the film slate as part of HBO Max at no additional cost, we thought it did a lot for the value proposition.”
Exhibitors, such as AMC Theatres, were not as receptive to the idea. AMC CEO Adam Aron issued a statement chastising WarnerMedia for the move shortly after it was announced, though Kilar attests that they are not abandoning movie theaters. However, Kilar said, "The only thing we can count on is change," which means that WarnerMedia and AT&T are open to any option available for an uncertain future.