Warner Bros. is done waiting for the pandemic to clear. The studio announced Thursday that it will make all of its movies in 2021 available for streaming on HBO Max at the same time they are released in theaters, reports Deadline. That means potential blockbusters such as The Matrix 4, Dune, and Godzilla vs. Kong will be available to home viewers even as they debut in physical theaters. The studio had previously announced that it would try the experiment with Wonder Woman 1984 later this month, but the decision to apply the strategy to its entire slate of 17 movies next year was unexpected.
"The unprecedented move is likely to catch theater owners off guard and upsets a model that has been in place for decades," per the Hollywood Reporter. Deadline calls it a "bombshell," and the AP describes it as a "seismic shift" for Hollywood. For now, the studio says this is a one-time shift made necessary by the pandemic. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do," says Ann Sarnoff, chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios. "We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021." No word yet on whether any other studios will follow suit. (Read more Warner Bros. stories.)