“In the next few years it may very well become the norm to have a choice of watching the newest blockbuster at the movies or at home,” writes streaming columnist NICK OVERALL.
IT looks like it might finally be happening, perhaps the biggest shake-up in cinema history since the arrival of VHS.
Warner Brothers Pictures has announced that its entire slate of 2021 movies will release not only in cinemas, but also streaming at the same time.
Its movies include some of the biggest films set for next year, including the new “Wonder Woman”, a fourth instalment of “The Matrix” as well as “Space Jam 2”, a sequel to the 1996 film that melded “Looney Tunes” with the National Basketball Association for some truly avant-garde stuff.
These films and more will premiere on the American streaming service HBO Max on the same day as the cinema launch and run for one month on the big and small screens.
Ann Sarnoff, CEO of Warner Bros, 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.”
What’s it mean for Australia though? Well at this point that isn’t quite clear as we don’t have HBO Max available. However, Foxtel Group’s Binge tends to be the platform that makes HBO content available Down Under, so we may see some of the big releases appear through there.
But it’s what the news means more generally for the entertainment landscape as a whole that’s really important.
Warner Bros’ plan for streaming releases is only supposed to last for a year, but a whole year is a lot of time to get used to having the new “Batman” or “Godzilla” film available to watch without leaving the couch.
The question is, if you weren’t overly bothered with going to the flicks to see a new release, would you stream it?
One of Warner Bros’ biggest releases is set to be part of this with “Dune”, an adaptation of the 1965 sci-fi epic novel by Frank Herbert. And as a bit of a self-confessed science fiction fanatic, “Dune” is certainly one I’m more than a little keen for though if it meant waiting for longer, I think it’d be worth it so that it can be experienced cinematically, the way it was intended to be.
I’m also not alone in that sentiment with many social media comments announcing their love for movie theatres and concern about their going out of business.
The cinema companies themselves, as you can expect, are more than a little panicked. AMC, one of America’s biggest cinema chains, was quick to enter an “immediate and urgent dialogue” with Warner Bros.
If HBO Max wildly succeeds in bringing in the streamers with this move, other top studios may try to follow suit, which in turn, may cause an entire shift in viewer expectations.
In the next few years it may very well become the norm to have a choice of watching the newest blockbuster at the movies or at home, and this move might just be the catalyst for that change.
It will be fascinating to see how the landscape has evolved come this time next year.
More of Nick Overall on Twitter @nick_overall