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AT&T CEO John Stankey Says Movies Such as ‘Tenet’ Aren’t Suitable for SVOD Premieres

Stephanie Sengwe

One of the biggest points COVID-19 has brought into question is the viability of movie theater premieres versus SVOD premieres. The issue came front and center this year when “Trolls World Tour” had a blockbuster digital premiere on FandangoNOW, prompting NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell to change the studio’s model of a mandated 90-day run for movies before hitting streaming services.

He revealed the company will consider releasing films on both platforms at the same time. The decision was so offensive to AMC theater execs that they refused to carry NBCUniversal films altogether.

During their Q2 2020 earnings call this morning, AT&T CEO John Stankey made it clear that while WarnerMedia has had to make adjustments due to the pandemic, throwing away the old model isn’t the way to go.

“I said last quarter that coming out of COVID, I would be surprised if the industry as a whole didn’t see some adjustment in the theatrical construct. I also made the point that, I think theatrical still has an absolutely important role moving forward. There’s just some content that is going to be more enjoyable and better to see in theaters than in the living room,” Stankey stated.

While there is an advantage to having platforms such as HBO Max, which allows the company to relegate films they originally planned to send to theaters to that platform, huge blockbuster premieres will always make a theatrical bow first.

“I don’t know when theaters are going to reopen … or what the circumstances are going to be around it. There’s no question that the longer this goes on, there’s going to be some content on the margin that we look at and say it may be better served to be distributed in a different construct,” Stankey explained.

“I love the fact that we have that option now … Do I think that there could be some things that we did, chartered and built for theatrical releases that maybe migrate into an SVOD construct? Sure. Is it going to happen on a movie like ‘Tenet’ or something like ‘Wonder Woman?’ I’d be very surprised if that’d be the case. I can assure you on ‘Tenet’ that’s not going to be the case.”

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