Warner to release all 2021 movies on HBO Max same day as in theaters

HBO Max will stream movies like The Matrix 4Dune and all new Warner Bros. movies set for theatrical release next year, making them available to watch at no added cost online the same day as their debuts on the big screen. Each film will be on HBO Max, which costs $15 a month, for one month, and then the movies will leave the streaming service so that they’re exclusively in theaters.

The unprecedented move comes three weeks before Wonder Woman 1984, a mega-budget Warner Bros. movie, is set to stream on Max the same day it debuts in theaters in the US. Warner Bros. is essentially morphing its Wonder Woman release strategy into its new normal for the coming year. HBO Max is owned by telecom giant AT&T.

WarnerMedia’s decision last week marks the latest in a series of titanic changes in how movies make their way to you in the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. Studios and cinemas have been experimenting with new release strategies that would have been inconceivable a year ago, especially for the most epically expensive films, like Wonder WomanDune and The Matrix. But Warner Bros. decision to release an entire year of its film slate online in this “day-and-date” model, when movies debut online and in theaters at the same time, is the most seismic shift yet.

Warner Bros. is calling the approach a “hybrid model” and says the strategy is a response to the pandemic, particularly in the US. All films will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR on HBO Max. Once the films leave Max, they’ll follow the regular route from theaters to home viewing, like online rental and purchase, DVD and Blu-ray and eventually TV and streaming again.

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