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Warner Bros: All films set for same-day release in US cinemas and on HBO Max
3 December 2020, 22:30 | Updated: 3 December 2020, 22:42
Warner Bros will release all its 2021 films, including Matrix 4 and The Suicide Squad, on the same day in US cinemas and on streaming service HBO Max.
The media group initially said superhero movie Wonder Woman 1984 would be the only flick available simultaneously on the subscription service and in US theatres.
Although the plan does not currently seem to be affecting UK release dates, as HBO Max is not available this side of the pond, it will likely spark a backlash in the industry amid fears other studios may follow suit.
However, the unprecedented move will deal a seismic blow to the already-struggling cinema industry which has been 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.
HBO Max, which is not yet available in the UK, is a rival to platforms including Netflix and Disney+, and Thursday's news underlines 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 science fiction movie Dune, 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 added: "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. They will then continue to play in cinemas, but it is unclear when the films will return to the streaming service.