The world's biggest theater chain appears to have been blindsided by a studio's "seismic shift" in how its movies will be released in 2021. AMC says that by releasing the year's entire slate of movies on HBO Max at the same time they are released in US theaters, Warner Bros. is "subsidizing" the streaming service at the expense of theaters, as well as its own movie division, Gizmodo reports. AMC Entertainment president Adam Aron said Thursday that the chain has "commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject." WarnerMedia CEO Ann Sarnoff describes the move, which will affect movies including Matrix 4 and the Dune remake, as a "unique one-year plan," reports Variety. The movies will remain on HBO Max for 30 days after their release.
Aron said AMC will "aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business." "These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, Wonder Woman 1984, being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height," he said. "However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theater business is expected to recover." Deadline reports that shares in AMC—which warned in October that it was running out of money—dived 16% Thursday after the Warner move was announced. Cinemark shares plummeted 22%. (Read more AMC stories.)