Aaron Couch and Pamela McClintock, the Hollywood Reporter:
Warner Bros. is plotting a sweeping response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered movie theaters around the country. After announcing that Wonder Woman 1984 will go to HBO Max as well as theaters on Dec. 25, the studio has laid out a similar path for its 2021 slate amid uncertainty about when movie-going will get back to normal.
The studio announced Thursday day-and-date releases for its 17-film slate, which will hit HBO Max for a one-month window that starts the same day they will be available in U.S. theaters.
This says a lot about what Warner Bros. expects for public health in the coming year, at least in the United States. I imagine this is another upsetting news item for independent theatre owners after the demise of the Paramount antitrust consent decrees late last year.
It should be pointed out that this is also another example of how the demise of net neutrality rules in the U.S. have played out. AT&T owns WarnerMedia, which owns Warner Bros. and HBO Max, and it does not count streaming over HBO Max against broadband subscribers’ monthly data caps. It also offers HBO Max for free to some cellular subscribers. AT&T is waiving fees on excess broadband data use until the end of the year but, starting next year, AT&T will flex its conglomerate muscles by offering first-run blockbuster movies to HBO subscribers without any extra cost. That is surely great for subscribers, but it is troubling for competition. It is a situation that can only be matched by other conglomerate-type companies, and ends up squeezing out independent production houses, theatres, and any company without a similarly vast connected business network.