As the landscape-shifting revelation from Warner Bros. Pictures continued Friday to roll over Hollywood and the moviegoing public, exhibitors such as Regal Cinemas and AMC wrestled with their next move.
In a clear indication it believes any real industry rebound is at least a year away, Warner on Thursday announced its 2021 film schedule would debut simultaneously streaming via HBO Max for the first month and in theaters. The historic move follows the company’s decision to put “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max next December, in addition to in theaters.
AMC, the largest U.S. theater group, had agreed to the “Wonder Woman” plan because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant number of theater closures. But CEO Adam Aron today is far less agreeable.
“Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division … to subsidize 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,” Aron said in a Hollywood Reporter story. “We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.”
Meanwhile, Regal Cinemas owner Cineworld Group expressed hope in the COVID vaccines and is hoping for an agreement on release windows. “(The vaccine) will … enable our cinemas to make a great comeback,” a Cineworld spokesman said in a statement. “We believe that at such a time, Warner Bros. will look to reach an agreement about the proper window and terms that will work for both sides.”
AMC stock fell 16% Thursday. Cinemark, the third-largest U.S. theater chain, was down 21%, while Imax slid 8%.
Warner Bros.’ 2021 roster is made up of 17 films including the “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark,” plus “The Matrix 4” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.”