Does Warner Bros. Moving to HBO Max End Movie Theaters as We Know Them?

By David Crow

Warner Bros. is premiering its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max (plus in theaters).

John Cena as Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad

With the theatrical window shattered, it feels like the future of movies is now.

And it’s led many to wonder could this be the end of movie theaters?

In the immediate future, things are not looking good for multiplexes.

As AMC Theatres decries WB, there is palpable worry other studios will follow suit.

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune

Disney, home to the biggest franchises, is well situated to continue moving blockbusters to Disney+.

Liu Yifei Not Singing in Mulan (2020)

And Universal Pictures has Peacock while Paramount is rebranding CBS All Access as Paramount+.

But those services’ bases are small, and most other studios seem ill-equipped for going all-in on streaming.

Universal also its historic deal with AMC to put movies in theaters for as little as 17 days before VOD.

And it’s unlikely Uni wants an international phenom like F9 on Peacock.

Also this could be a temporary solution to handling the COVID pandemic.

WarnerMedia Studios CEO Ann Sarnoff called this “a unique one-year plan.”

But it’s hard to believe this genie will be put back in the bottle as consumers adjust to a new normal.

Yet this does not mean theaters will go away.

This could mean more boutique cinemas where, like live theater, there’s a smaller, passionate audience.

Or it could mean multiplexes succeed at becoming multimedia arcades for all ages.

Whatever happens, the future is now.