Reaction from Warner Bros.’ landmark decision to effectively scuttle the theatrical window on all new movie releases in 2021 has run the gamut of emotions among exhibitors.
Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres parent AMC Entertainment, blasted the decision, contending WarnerMedia is sacrificing “a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division” to help jumpstart SVOD platform HBO Max. Aron said the decision also negatively affects filmmakers and production partners.
“We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialog with the leadership of Warner on this subject,” Aron said in a statement.
The CEO over the summer hammered out a reduced theatrical window agreement with Universal Pictures, which affords the studio PVOD distribution into homes 17 days after theatrical release on titles with less than $50 million box office. AMC also shares in the PVOD revenue.
Aron had been understanding of Warner’s decision to release DC superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day. But an entire year’s film slate is another issue.
“As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand,” Aron said. “So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.”
Meanwhile, Cineworld, owner of No. 2 (and temporarily shuttered due to the pandemic) exhibitor Regal Cinemas, with more than 7,000 screens in the U.S., said it expects to iron out a new distribution agreement with Warner going forward.
In a statement, Cineworld said it understood Warner’s decision to bow Wonder Woman 1984 directly to Max due to the theater closings. It also remains “very encouraged by the giant steps achieved” with regards to the COVID-19 vaccination process, which it expects will be put in place earlier than previously anticipated.
“This will generate significant relief for our industry and enable our cinemas to make a great comeback,” Cineworld said.
The exhibitor said that when a vaccine is available, it would look to reach an agreement with Warner about release windows and financial terms that will work for both sides.
“Big movies are made for the big screen and we cannot wait to reopen our cinemas in [the first quarter] in order to offer our customers, as always, the best place to watch a movie,” Cineworld said.