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Dune, The Matrix 4, King Kong all set for streaming debuts next year

Warner Bros backs simultaneous streaming and cinema releases - what does this mean?

Dune, The Matrix 4, King Kong all set for streaming debuts next year
Marc Chacksfield
04 December 2020

The gap between a movie coming out in the cinema and when it makes its way to Blu-ray and online has always been a sacred one. Cinemas use these months of exclusivity to get bums on seats but some have seen it as archaic. It was a contentious issue before Covid-19 hit, with streaming seen as a lesser way to debut movies, but now Warner Bros is embracing it, revealing that its entire 2021 slate of movies will debut on its streaming service HBO Max, at the same time as being in the cinema.

This means that tentpole movies, including Dune, The Matrix 4, Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat and The Suicide Squad will debut both in cinemas and online, with the online version available for a month. Alongside the news, we were given a great look at some of the logos for the new movies.

Given we aren’t going to see packed theatres for some time, this feels like an emergency move by Warner Bros and one that has been met with ‘this is the death of cinema’ backlash.

But is it? Well, Warner Bros doesn’t see it that way, with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar saying to CNBC: “Everyone should take a breather… let’s let the next six, eight, ten months play out. And then let’s check back in.

“Certainly this is pandemic-related,” Kilar said. “That’s why we’re doing it. We haven’t spent one brain cell on what the world looks like in 2022.”

It is indeed the case that cinemas aren’t going to full re-open for some time but it’s another Warner Bros movie that will test this cinema and streaming pairing first. Wonder Woman 1984 will be released on Christmas Day in the US (a week before in the UK) and also set for a streaming debut on HBO Max.

If you aren’t familiar with HBO Max, that’s because it's a US-only streaming service that’s trying hard to vie against the big guns of Netflix and Disney Plus. In the UK, it’s unknown which service will get these movies but Sky is a serious contender thanks to prior deals.

HBO Max needs to up its popularity and adding all of these movies to the service will certainly make it a popular one. The fact that Disney managed to make Mulan a success streaming only - a $200 million movie - will give Warner Bros some comfort.

As for the cinemas, they will welcome the news that a vaccine is on the way and will be hoping they can do some sort of deal with Warner Bros to make sure their pockets don’t remain empty.