Warner Bros’ 2021 release strategy works out well for UK cinemas

Last week Warner Bros. announced that all of its 2021 film releases in the US will be released in cinemas and on the HBOMax streaming service on the same day.

These include blockbusters such as Godzilla vs Kong, The Suicide Squad, the fourth Matrix film and Dune, plus family favourites Tom & Jerry and Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Also to hit the dual release will be the third Conjuring film, Lin Manuel Miranda musical In The Heights, the Tony Soprano sequel movie The Many Saints of Newark, and Will Smith’s portrayal of The Williams Sisters’ father in King Richard.

The news about WB’s temporary pandemic model for 2021 has a number of positives for UK cinemagoing.

  • The plan will provide UK cinemagoers with the option to watch their movies on the big screen.
  • It provides advertisers with the confidence that these films will be released in cinemas and not be pushed further into the future.
  • There will be much needed marketing activity to support the films’ releases

Wonder Woman 1984 is the first film adapting this hybrid model, it will be released in the UK on the 16th December* with a four-week exclusivity window in cinemas before arriving, 30 days later, on Sky.

In the US, it is a different model – all films will be simulcast in cinemas and on the struggling HBO Max platform (part of Warner Media).

These are challenging times for both exhibition and distribution, in the short term this solution provides content for cinemas, audiences for brands and revenue for the distributors.

There have been a number of opinion pieces about the news: Marketing Week’s Mark Ritson believes WW84’s release could determine the future of cinema, while director and avid Cinema fan Christopher Nolan has condemned the decision to release its films on “the worst streaming service.

Phil Clapp, the chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, told The Evening Standard:

“The overwhelming majority of our members believe that a significant period of theatrical exclusivity remains important not just for cinema operators, but more importantly for audiences, ensuring that they will continue to be able to enjoy films on the big screen, their natural home.”

*premium spots still available in Wonder Woman 1984