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Cinema chains respond to Warner Bros.’ new HBO Max streaming plan – and they are not happy

Wonder Woman 1984, Dune, The Suicide Squad
(Image credit: IMDb)

Warner Bros. dropped a major bombshell yesterday – the studio’s entire slate of 2021 releases will simultaneously debut on both HBO Max and in cinemas. 

This was already the plan for Wonder Woman 1984, and there had been talk of other releases following suit next year – but no one expected all the studio's releases (including Dune, The Matrix 4 and The Suicide Squad) to go down the same route. And cinema chain AMC is, understandably, not happy.

“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,” AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron told Variety. “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.”

AMC is the biggest cinema chain in the US, operating 659 venues across the country. Aron added: “Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidise its HBO Max startup. 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. We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.”

Cinemark, meanwhile, was more coy in its response. “In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis,” the chain said in a statement. “At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films.” 

Only time will tell what this means for the future of the movie industry. Other releases getting the same treatment include Godzilla vs Kong, the live-action Tom & Jerry movie, and Mortal Kombat. Assuming there aren’t any other bombshells on the horizon, here’s our list of the other upcoming movies to look forward to next year.

I’m an Entertainment Writer at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections – I help bring you all the latest news and the occasional feature, too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.