WarnerMedia to Bow ‘Dune’ Day Early on HBO Max

WarnerMedia will release Warner Bros. Pictures’ sci-fi reboot Dune on the HBO Max SVOD service on Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET — a day ahead of its North American theatrical debut.

The movie adaptation from director Denis Villeneuve has already generated $100 million in foreign box office revenue outside China and the United States.

The 1984 original Dune generated nearly $31 million in global box office proceeds, which is equivalent to about $80 million today.

WarnerMedia, which is releasing Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 theatrical slate concurrently on the Max subscription streaming service, moved up Dune to coincide with the movie’s Thursday night screenings.

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The move comes as WarnerMedia attempts to offset its decision to drop Max from the Amazon Channels platform, which affords Prime members direct access to third-party SVOD services. The decision reportedly could cost Max five million subscribers.

Code Confab: Jason Kilar Has Lots of Regrets

WarnerMedia is entering the final quarter of an unconventional year that has seen the media company upend its theatrical release strategy for streaming (HBO Max), while parent AT&T plans to relinquish operational control of the company to a third-party (Discovery) in 2022 for $43 billion.

That’s a lot on the plate of CEO Jason Kilar, who was further scrutinized about it all Sept. 28 at Vox Media’s Code Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif. In a Q&A with MSNBC’s Stephanie Rhule, Kilar again defended and apologized for his decision to simultaneously release Warner Bros. Pictures’ entire 2021 movie slate free to Max subscribers.

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The abrupt move, which started Christmas Day 2020 with Wonder Woman 1984, helped jumpstart Max’s sluggish subscriptions — at the expense of some movie directors, producers and talent. HBO and HBO Max had 47 million combined subs at the end of June — up more than 10 million from the previous-year period.

“We endeavored to do the right thing in terms of communication,” Kilar said. “But I would be the first one to say, and the responsibility rests on my shoulders, that in hindsight, we should have taken the better part of a month to have over 170 conversations, which is the number of participants that are in our 2021 film slate.”

In reality, Kilar said Warner Bros. spent a less than week outlining the move — a decision that didn’t sit well within the industry, and reportedly led some calls for the Directors Guild of America to boycott the studio. Longtime studio director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Tenet) has taken his next project to Universal Pictures.

Meanwhile, with Discovery CEO David Zaslav set to run the new “Warner Bros. Discovery” company next year, Kilar acknowledged his time at the controls is winding down. While no word on Kilar’s employment status has been made, the former Hulu chief executive admitted he was disappointed the job wouldn’t last another decade or two.

“But that’s not the way corporate America works,” he said.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ ‘Dune,’ ‘Saints of Newark’ Headline HBO Max October Content Slate

Warner Bros. Pictures is entering the final three months of its controversial 2021 theatrical release decision to concurrently stream box office movies for free to subscribers for 31 days only on the $14.99 HBO Max plan.

Critics contend the strategy has negatively impacted Warner’s box office, while proponents say it has jumpstarted Max subscriptions. The studio plans to revert back to a theatrical-driven release strategy in 2022.

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In the meantime, on Oct. 22, Max will stream Academy Award-nominated director Denis Villeneuve’s (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) reboot of sci-fi movie Dune, the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s best-seller of the same name. Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people.

The Many Saints of Newark

Three weeks before, Max on Oct. 1 will stream the theatrical release The Many Saints of Newark, the feature film prequel to David Chase’s award-winning 1999-2007 HBO drama series “The Sopranos.” Young Anthony Soprano is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history, becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city —and under the influence of the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti.

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Fans of the original series can catch up with the “Sopranos” spotlight page and curated trays on Max. The spotlight page and trays in-app highlight essential episodes, the evolution of Tony, among other features.

Other original programming bowing next month includes the third season of the Emmy-winning drama series “Succession” on Oct. 17; the fifth and final season of the Emmy-winning HBO comedy series “Insecure” on Oct. 24; the eleventh season of comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; the second season of romantic comedy anthology series “Love Life” (Oct. 28); the third season of “Selena + Chef”; the three-part mini-series event “Aquaman: King of Atlantis” (Oct. 14); and the second season of the unscripted series “We’re Here” on Oct. 11.

In addition to horror movies It: Chapter 2, The Amityville Horror and Mama, Max next month offers streaming access to hundreds of refreshed catalog movies and TV series.

JustWatch: ‘Malignant,’ ‘Murders in the Building’ Top Weekly Streamed Movie, TV Show

Warner Bros. Pictures’ horror movie Malignant has disappointed at the box office, but not on HBO Max where it streams free for subscribers. The James Wan-directed title was the most-streamed movie for the week ended Sept. 19, according to new data from JustWatch.

Runner-ups included Universal Pictures’ reboot Candyman, which is available on transactional VOD, and Sony Pictures’ 2018 action-adventure Venom.

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Among TV shows streamed, Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, again trended tops among viewers. A notable podium finisher was Apple TV+ Emmy-winning original comedy series “Ted Lasso,” with Jason Sudeikis headlining a largely British cast about an American college football coach recruited to manage a London-based professional soccer team. The series just trailed Netflix’s “American Crime Story.”

JustWatch, an international streaming guide, tracks SVOD streaming habits of 20 million monthly users across 47 countries, including the United States.

Warner’s ‘Malignant’ Scoring in Streaming Despite Box Office Woes

Entering last weekend, Warner Bros. Pictures’ horror release Malignant had all the prerequisites for success: a hot director in James Wan (Aquaman, The Conjuring) and strong social media buzz. But the film disappointed at the box office, generating $5.6 million in domestic ticket sales, far below studio expectations.

On the flipside, the movie concurrently debuted on HBO Max free to subscribers for 31 days as part of Warner’s yearlong strategy promoting teh SVOD/AVOD platform with new theatrical movies. The concept was a winner with streamers.

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New weekly data from JustWatch found that Malignant was the top streamed movie across its monitored devices the week ended Sept. 12. The title beat out Universal Pictures’ 9/11 inspired 2006 movie United 93 and the original 1992 Candyman (TriStar Pictures).

Among TV shows, Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, repeated as most-streamed series. The show was followed by Netflix series, “American Crime Story” and “Rick and Morty.”

‘Free Guy’ Reigns Supreme Again at Weekend Box Office

Disney/20th Century Studio’s action comedy Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds, held off cute animated puppies and Hugh Jackman at the domestic box office, generating an estimated $18.8 million in revenue across more than 4,000 North American screens through Aug. 22. The tally is about 34% less than the movie’s previous weekend opening of $28.4 million. To date, the movie has generated more than $63 million in the U.S., and $112 million worldwide.

The resilient showing masked a weak overall box office that saw less than $60 million in ticket sales — the lowest weekend tally since June 20.

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In the second spot, with almost $13 million in revenue across 3,100 screens ($34.5 million globally), was Paramount Pictures’ Paw Patrol: The Movie, an impressive debut considering the target audience is under the age of 12. The animated feature crushed Warner Bros. Pictures’ Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman, with just $2 million in reported revenue across 3,200 screens. The movie, along with Warner’s entire 2021 theatrical slate, is streaming for free to HBO Max subscribers for the first 31 days of release.

How bad did it get for Warner? Reminiscence revenue finished behind a pack of repeat showings, including Disney’s Jungle Cruise with $6.2 million ($92.5 million worldwide); Sony Pictures’ Don’t Breathe 2 with $5 million ($19.6 million); MGM’s Respect ($3.8 million, $15.1 million); The Suicide Squad ($3.4 million, $49.2 million); Lionsgate new release The Protege ($2.9 million) and Searchlight Pictures’ opening weekend bow of The Night House at $2.8 million.

Warner Bros., AMC Theatres Agree to 45-Day Theatrical Window in 2022

AMC Entertainment Aug. 9 disclosed it has inked an agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures  for a 45-day theatrical window on the studio’s 2022 new-release movies at AMC Theatres — a shortened window similar to the studio’s existing deal with Regal Cinemas signed in April.

AMC protested last year when WarnerMedia announced it would distribute Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 theatrical slate concurrently on HBO Max. AMC had initially agreed to the concept for the studio’s initial release, Wonder Woman 1984, citing the ongoing pandemic. But the exhibitor’s tone changed when it realized the the box office/streaming strategy was more than a one-off deal.

“It’s no secret that AMC was not at all happy when Warner decided in December to take movies to the home on HBO Max simultaneously with the theatrical release,” CEO Adam Aron said on the company’s second-quarter (ended June 30) fiscal call. “Therefore, it’s especially gratifying that Warner Bros. is yet again embracing a theatrical window. It’s especially pleasing to be working so harmoniously with Warner Bros. once again.”

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Aron said the exhibitor, which struck revenue-sharing agreements with Universal Pictures to accommodate the studio’s expedited move toward retail channels, including PVOD, is in discussions with other studios.

“We actually are in active dialogue with every major studio on this very important topic,” Aron said. “We are hearing considerable support in Hollywood that an exclusive theatrical window is an important way to build big and successful movie franchises. Clearly, though, this whole subject is quite topical. It’s very much a work in progress.”

Indeed, a return to quasi normalcy resulted in AMC generating $444.7 million in revenue, up from just $18.9 million during the previous-year period when the pandemic had most domestic screens shuttered. Through six months of the fiscal year, revenue is down 38.3% to $593 million, from $960.4 million in the same period in 2020. The net loss decreased to $344 million, from $561.2 million. Through the half-year, revenue is down to $911.2 million, from $2.73 billion in 2020.

“AMC is playing on offense again,” Aron said.

Warner’s ‘The Suicide Squad’ Falls Below Weekend Box Office Projections

Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Suicide Squad generated around $26.5 million across 4,000 screens through the Aug. 8 weekend — tops at the domestic box office for an ‘R’-rated title, but below industry expectations.

Observers believe the film’s performance was impacted by both the spread of the Delta variant and the fact that the movie is simultaneously screening on HBO Max.

The standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, directed by Marvel Cinematic Universe veteran James Gunn, had been expected to top $30 million in North American ticket sales. It is the latest DC Extended Universe theatrical release since Wonder Woman 1984 opened on Christmas Day 2020.

The benchmark is based in part on opening weekend box office results for Warner’s other pandemic/HBO Max releases such as Godzilla vs. Kong, which earned $31.6 million its opening weekend at theaters while released concurrently to Max subscribers for 31 days. Suicide Squad spinoff Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey opened with $33 million in February 2020 just before the pandemic.

In its third week of release, Disney’s Jungle Cruise generated $15.7 million in North American ticket sales, bringing its domestic total to $65.3 million ($121.8 million worldwide).

M. Night Shyamalan’s horror/thriller Old, distributed by Universal Pictures, brought in an estimated $4.1 million after three weeks, bringing its total to $38.5 million domestically ($68.1 million worldwide).

Disney/Marvel Studios’ Black Widow topped $4 million in its fifth week of release to become the top-grossing domestic release so far this year, passing Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga. Sister company Focus Features’ Stillwater generated $2.8 million, followed A24’s The Green Knight with $2.6 million and Warner’s Space Jam: A New Legacy with $2.4 million. The LeBron James-starrer has generated $65.6 million in U.S. theaters while concurrently streaming on Max.

Is ‘Heights’ Misstep the First Crack in Warner’s Hybrid Streaming/Theatrical Release Strategy?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Warner Pictures’ Latino-themed musical In The Heights failed to measure up to the studio’s projection it would earn $20 million at the theatrical box office its opening weekend — despite stellar reviews and being based on an award-winning Broadway musical.

The movie, which featured an ensemble cast and $55 million production budget, generated about $11.65 million. It also streamed concurrently on HBO Max as part of WarnerMedia’s decision to stream Warner’s entire 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously.

Thus far, the strategy seemed like a home run, with Warner titles dominating both the pandemic box office and streaming households. And by COVID-19 standards, with theaters operating at lower capacity, Heights’ opening weekend was a success. The movie will likely generate at least 1 million Max households, which is on par (1.3+ million) for most Warner titles this year.

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But the box office is supposed to be putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror. Recent releases such as Disney’s Cruella, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II and even Warner’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It suggested moviegoers (especially those who are vaccinated) were headed back to the cineplex in greater numbers.

So what happened? Bad expectations.

Heights, like the previous underperforming Warner theatrical release Judas and the Black Messiah, was never destined for box office largess due largely to a variety of factors, including a Broadway backdrop and the lack of name cast.

“Ultimately, this is not the first musical to be hyped by the industry and fall a little short of expectations,” Shawn Robbins, chief box office analyst at Boxoffice.com, said in a media interview. “Maybe the timing wasn’t quite right, or it simply wasn’t fair to expect such big things, even pre-pandemic, from a relatively original title with mostly unknown actors.”

“We’re still in the middle of a learning process when it comes to the theatrical performance of films that have a hybrid release strategy,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore, told the Los Angeles Times. “Musicals have a fairly mixed track record at the box office. Despite the high hopes and general enthusiasm for the film, this debut should not be the only metric for success.”

Independent analyst The Entertainment Oracle contends that regardless of Heights‘ final numbers, the hybrid theatrical/streaming distribution model has proved successful.

“From it we can see that beyond a shadow of a doubt the traditional [theatrical] model is still alive and well, and despite what was assumed, the two don’t cannibalize each other to a high level,” he wrote.


Warner’s ‘In The Heights’ Misses Weekend Box Office Projections; Sony’s ‘Peter Rabbit 2’ Performs as Expected

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Latino musical In The Heights was supposed to lure non-action/monster moviegoers back to theaters through June 13.

Instead, the theatrical adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Broadway hit — which won four Tony awards, including best musical — sputtered, reportedly taking in about 60% ($11.4 million) of the movie’s projected $20 million theatrical gross across 3,456 screens.

Indeed, the movie was edged out by Paramount Pictures’ post-apocalyptic sequel A Quiet Place Part II for top-grossing weekend domestic release with a reported $11.65 million in revenue. The latter has grossed more than $108 million in three weeks at U.S. theaters.

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Despite enhanced studio promotion and strong critical reviews, the ensemble cast-driven Heights was perhaps undermined by its simultaneous availability for free on HBO Max. The movie will likely generate more than 1 million Max household views — which has been the average for most non-blockbuster 2021 Warner titles released concurrently in theaters.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures sequel Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway performed as expected, generating an estimated $10.4 million across 3,346 screens, and on par with studio estimates ranging from $8 million to $10 million. Sony expects the live-action sequel with CGI animals to post an extended theatrical run and come close to the original’s $351.5 million global run.

Separately, Warner’s horror threequel The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It reportedly generated $10 million, to bring its domestic total to $43.6 million.