The decision to release all of Warner Bros. 2021 films to both theaters and HBO Max simultaneously was the shot heard around the movie industry.
To call the Warner Bros. 2021 release decision controversial would be an understatement. The company made the unprecedented decision that all 17 of its 2021 releases would be released to theaters while also debuting on HBO Max on the same day. This decision was made in the wake of a similar plan for Wonder Woman 1984, but unlike that plan, directors and actors were not warned beforehand that the announcement was coming.
This has led to a lot of blowback in the media as creatives associated with the films have taken to the media to express their displeasure. And now WarnerMedia Jason Kilar is trying to explain the thought process.
In an exclusive article for Variety, the WarnerMedia CEO explained that the company just doesn’t see the theatrical side of the business snapping back to what it was in 2019 overnight. “Unfortunately, we don’t think that the world will snap back to the way it was on a magic date, in April, or June, or September. We think this pandemic is going to have some long-lasting effects. So we had a decision to make, which is what do we do [to release movies] in the context of a pandemic? And how can we be thoughtful about not just the fans, which is where it starts and ends, but also the partners that we work with, whether it’s a director or a producer or an actor, whether it’s an exhibition community, which we care deeply about?” Kilar went on to add, “I feel very good about the decision [to offer day-and-date streaming and theatrical releases for Warner Bros.’ 2021 film slate], which is about being able to give fans the choice. In the U.S. market, they get to make the choice in the middle of a pandemic whether they go to theaters, or whether they go to HBO Max, or both.”
“This is beyond media,” said Kilar. “We are in a moment of accelerated change. Our response is to take a deep breath, to be thoughtful about our partners, to be thoughtful about the fans, most importantly, and to be thoughtful about the business that we need to responsibly run. And to do all those things by leaning into the future as opposed to being afraid to do so.”
The Warner Bros. 2021 schedule has numerous large theatrical titles, but the biggest for DC fans will be The Suicide Squad currently slated for release on Aug. 6. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is still considered to be outside of this situation as it was always intended for release on HBO Max since it’s announcement.