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Warner Bros. 2022 Films to Get 45-Day Theatrical Window Before HBO Max Release

Michael King

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar reiterated that while the day-and-date release strategy for Warner Bros. motion pictures would not push forward into 2022, a revised release structure tied to a 45-day exclusive theatrical window would work for customers and exhibitors. Kilar spoke during the AT&T 3Q Earnings Call on Thursday morning.

Each of WB’s major motion pictures during 2021 has been simultaneously released in theaters and on HBO Max, which has certainly affected their bottom line. Other studios have worked with versions of this type of release strategy over the course of the year. The most notable example came from Disney with its short-lived Premier Access strategy — allowing same-day access to Disney+ members for an additional fee. Disney shelved the experiment after “Jungle Cruise.”

Kilar emphasized that as a result of the pandemic, that the way business was being conducted in an entirely different fashion than several years ago.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic — (and) that presents very unique circumstances,” Kilar said. “We’ve been very much leading, and ‘first over the wall’ in terms of bringing our 2021 slate to customers in a way that can work for them, but also work for exhibition and work for our participants.”

Going into 2022, instead of a unilateral day-and-date release structure, Warner Bros. plans to shift to a strategy that emphasizes a theatrical window of 45 days for new releases before they come to HBO Max, Kilar said.

“A certain slate of motion pictures that we’ll have exclusive theatrical runs of 45 days,” Kilar said. “Then, they will go to HBO Max.”

At the same time, he said, there will be other WB titles that will be released directly to HBO Max.

“We’re also going to have motion pictures that will come right to HBO Max on Day One,” he said. “That’s quite a bit different from where things were, say, five years ago.”

In comparison, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said last month that some of the upcoming Paramount Pictures releases — notably family-friendly films — would be likely to see the day-and-date release structure remain in place for now. Following on the successful day-and-date summer release of Paw Patrol: The Movie, Paramount plans to release Clifford The Big Red Dog as a day-and-date release in theaters and on Paramount+ on Wed., Nov. 10.

“We think that’s actually a very good model for kids and family films, again, particularly in this COVID-impacted time, because it gives consumes optionality to view the product where they feel the most comfortable, and we did a bunch of research on that,” he said. “The result of that move … was a film which did very well both theatrically and it was a significant driver for Paramount+, where it’s actually now one of the most-watched originals to date.”

Kilar remains confident about the updated release strategy going forward for Warner Bros. and HBO Max.

“What we’ve learned is that motion pictures continue to matter,” Kilar said. “We feel very good about the quarter and where things are going.”

Globally the company now has 69.4 million HBO Max and HBO subscribers, up from 67.5 million last quarter, and 12.5 million on the year. A decline of HBO Max subscribers in the US brought the streamer to 45.2 million in 3Q, versus 47 million domestic subscribers last quarter. The loss came after HBO cut ties with Amazon Prime Video in September, which meant the streamer had to reacquire 5 million subscribers who had signed up for the service through Prime Video Channels.

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