All of Warner Bros’ 2021 releases – including blockbusters such as Dune, Matrix 4 and The Suicide Squad – will arrive on its HBO Max streaming service at the same time as in cinemas in the US, the studio has announced.
The unprecedented move is another seismic blow to the ailing theatre industry, which is reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Warner Bros said the one-year plan was a response to the “unprecedented times” of the health crisis.
It had previously announced superhero film Wonder Woman 1984 would be available on HBO Max at the same time as its US theatrical release, although many saw that as an isolated move.
HBO Max, which is not yet available in the UK, is a rival to platforms including Netflix and Disney+, and Thursday’s news highlights how vital Hollywood studios now view the streaming business.
Warner Bros said it expects US cinemas to be operating at reduced capacity throughout 2021.
Other films to be affected by the new model include Sopranos prequel The Many Saints Of Newark, Godzilla Vs Kong, video game adaptation Mortal Kombat, neo-western Those Who Wish Me Dead, horror movie The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy and sports drama King Richard.
Ann Sarnoff, chair and chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, said the pandemic called for “creative solutions”.
She said: “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 theatres in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.
“With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theatres, or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies, the chance to see our amazing 2021 films.
“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.”
Warner Bros said the films will be released for one month on HBO Max before leaving the platform, but will continue to play in cinemas. It is unclear when the films will return to HBO Max.