AMC, owner of many other cinema chains worldwide, demanded urgent talks with Warner Bros. following the announcement of the new release strategy yesterday. These talks have started.

Warner Bros. will now release all their premier content, including Dune and the upcoming Matrix sequel, direct to HBO Max for streaming at the same time as their cinema release. This has made the already febrile atmosphere between theaters and studios borderline toxic. Theaters have been struggling to survive and studios have had millions of dollars worth of product with no route to market.

Both studios and chains are desperate to rebuild revenues after virus control measures closed cinemas and decimated their 2020 business plans. The new releases will be available on the service in the US for one month after relelase. As well as Wonder Woman 1984 this will include Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat and The Suicide Squad.

Earlier this year AMC similarly defended borders against Universal ripping up the age old exhibitor rulebook.

AMC Come Out Swinging

Cinemas are desperate for content to tempt back customers, many of whom may still have concerns over viral infection with COVID-19.

AMC boss Adam Aron, said:

“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.”

AMC went on to accuse Warner Bros of subsidising HBO Max with this move:

“We will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business. We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.”

Ann Sarnoff, chair and chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios, said the pandemic called for creative solutions:

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theatres in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”

AMC banned all Universal films after the studio said it would release new movies at home and on the big screen on the same day. The two giants then were lockled in a tense negotiation which eventually yielded  position that Universal movies can go to digital services after just 17 days of viewing in cinemas.

Explaining Warner Bros’ decision, Ms Sarnoff said it was a:

“…unique one-year plan that would give moviegoers, who may not have access to theatres, or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies, the chance to see our amazing 2021 films.

We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.”

Warner Bros. aren’t going to budge on this for 2021 just yet, and AMC have form for making studios chnage their minds. Sit back and watch, folks. This could be a good fight.