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, 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.


HBO Max Bowing Interactive NY City Walking Tour Ahead of ‘In the Heights’ Movie Release

New York City has been the backdrop to countless movies and series for Warner Bros. and HBO. This month, HBO Max will invite movie fans to explore memorable movie and TV show moments with a self-guided, interactive walking tour of the Big Apple.

The three-day pop up experience, “HBO Max On Location,” will take place from June 11-13 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST) and feature 20 branded installations in Manhattan.

The promotion is in part for the feature film release of In the Heights, the Warner Bros. Pictures film debuting June 10 in theaters and on Max (exclusive to the ad-free subscription tier only). The tour will also feature other Max series and movies filmed in the city.

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Participants will have special access to view a scene from In The Heights or a Max series or film affiliated with each location and have the opportunity to redeem rewards from local businesses. There are a limited number of rewards available on each day and they will be distributed by each participating partner on a first-come, first served basis while supplies last.

“We look forward to returning to New York City and honoring the incredible film In The Heights,” Jason Mulderig, SVP of brand marketing for HBO Max and HBO, said in a statement. “‘HBO Max On Location’ is a great opportunity to provide a safe and fun interactive experience for fans of iconic Max series and movies that also supports local businesses, in a city that has been severely impacted over the past year but continues to stay resilient.”

As part of the tour, Max will partner with both NYC & Company, which curated a supplemental guide to the vibrant neighborhood of Washington Heights, and Citi Bike (sponsored by Lyft), which recently opened more than 30 new stations in upper Manhattan. After interacting with the experience from select locations, visitors can grab a free bike to transport them around the city for the guided adventure. Washington Heights staples such as Malecon and Locksmith will be highlighted as part of the experience alongside New York City notables Levain Bakery, Magnolia Cupcakes and Katz’s Delicatessen.

Locales in the experience range from those featured in Max Originals “Gossip Girl,” the extension of the pop culture classic debuting July 8, “Love Life” and “The Flight Attendant,” to HBO Originals “Sex and the City,” “The Undoing” and “Succession,” to classic series “Friends” and films When Harry Met Sally, Ocean’s 8 and more.

The complete map and list of titles is available on and photo stills here.

Samba TV: Box Office Champ ‘Conjuring 3’ Attracted 1.6M Streaming Households Over the Weekend

While topping the box office over the weekend, Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It also managed to attract 1.6 million streaming households June 4-7, according to data from smart-TV viewer tracking service Samba TV.

The horror flick is concurrently in theaters and streaming at no additional charge to HBO Max subscribers for 31 days.

Despite its streaming availability, the threequel earned $24 million at the domestic box office June 4-6 to topple the previous top earner, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II.

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The streaming audience skewed lower income ($75,000 and less), younger (44 and below), black (+19%) and Hispanic (+41%). Of the 25 largest DMAs, Phoenix over-indexed the most (+47%), according to Samba TV data.

Angelina Jolie’s ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’ Among Lowest-Streamed Warner Movies

Angelina Jolie’s action-drama Those Who Wish Me Dead tracked 1.2 million HBO Max households during its opening weekend release in theaters and on subscription streaming video, according to new data from Samba TV. The movie, which features Jolie as a wildland firefighter who helps a young boy on a run from killers, generated the lowest SVOD viewership since Warner’s Tom & Jerry in February.

Samba tracks viewer recommend program data — called “automatic content recognition” — from more than 13.5 million smart TVs in the U.S.

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Dead generated $2.8 million at the domestic box office, $7.2 million worldwide. Warner’s 2021 theatrical slate streams concurrently on Max for 31 days following its box office debut.

Samba found that Dead viewership peaked on May 15, with the audience skewing younger (54-years-old and below) and non-white (black +21%, Hispanic +13% and Asian +5%). Of the top 25 designated market areas, Sacramento over-indexed the most, with streaming households up 64%.

Warner’s first hybrid theatrical/SVOD release, Wonder Woman 1984, remains the No. 1 in streaming viewership, generating 4.3 million households in its opening weekend over Christmas. Mortal Kombat started strong with 3.6 million households since its April 23 launch. Detective drama The Little Things had slightly more than 3 million households. Other Warner releases Zach Snyder’s Justice League and The Little Things generated 1.8 million and 1.4 million opening weekend Max household viewership, respectively.

Regal Parent, Disney Reportedly Agree to Theatrical Window Deal

On the heels of its theatrical distribution deal with Universal Pictures, Cineworld, corporate parent of No. 2 exhibitor Regal, reportedly has ironed out an agreement with the Walt Disney Co. That would be Cineworld’s third distribution deal in the COVID-19 era when including a previous agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Disney deal is expected to mirror Universal’s, which affords the studio expedited access to direct-to-consumer distribution, i.e. premium VOD, depending on a film’s box office. If a movie generates $50 million or less in ticket sales, the studio has the right to release it digitally within 17 days of theatrical debut. If the box office exceeds $50 million, the exhibitor’s window expands to 31 days — 45 days in the United Kingdom.

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While Disney’s upcoming movies Cruella, Luca, Black Widow and Jungle Cruise all have either hybrid Premier Access/theatrical or Disney+ distribution, the media giant is debuting 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy and Marvel Studios’ action-adventure Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with 45-day exclusive windows on Aug. 13 and Sept. 3, respectively.

Funimation’s ‘Demon Slayer’ Tops ‘Mortal Kombat’ in Domestic Weekend Box Office

Anime appears to be topping video games at the domestic weekend box office through May 2. Funimation’s Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is projected to best Warner Bros. Pictures’ Mortal Kombat with an estimated $6.4 million in ticket sales to $6.2 million, respectively. The results, if they hold, reverse the previous week’s tally that saw Kombat edge Slayer by about $2.1 million. Both titles saw their box office plummet more than 70% from their debuts.

Mortal Kombat

Demon Slayer, which reportedly ranks as the third-highest anime theatrical release in the U.S. (behind Pokemon: The First Movie and Pokemon: The Movie 2000) remains Japan’s all-time box office champ with more than $394 million. The title has tracked about $435 million in ticket sales globally.

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Kombat has generated $34 million across about 3,000 domestic screens, topping $63 million worldwide. The movie is streaming concurrently on HBO Max as part of WarnerMedia’s 2021 strategy to release the studio’s entire theatrical slate on SVOD.

Rounding out the podium is Warner’s international monster epic, Godzilla vs. Kong, which tracked about $2.7 million in ticket sales, $90 million worldwide. The movie is also streaming on Max.

Among the top five theatrical releases, new horror flick Separation tallied about $1.7 million in revenue across 1,700 screens. The Open Road release topped Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Universal Pictures’ Nobody with more than $1.2 million each. Both movies are available on digital retail platforms, yet have generated $23.3 million and $41.4 million at the box office, respectively.


‘Mortal Kombat’ Most-Streamed Warner Movie on HBO Max

Godzilla and King Kong have met their match: video game franchise Mortal Kombat. New data from Samba TV found that a record 3.8 million HBO Max households streamed the new Warner Bros. Pictures’ release Mortal Kombat over the three-day weekend ended April 25. That compared with the previous record of 3.6 million Max households streaming Godzilla vs. Kong over five days ended April 4.

Warner is releasing its entire 2021 theatrical slate concurrently with access on Max for 31 days. The strategy hasn’t hurt ticket sales as Kombat, along with every Warner theatrical title beginning with Wonder Woman 1984, has topped the North American box office in its opening weekend.

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Samba said the Kombat audience resonated with viewers below the age of 44, including women (up 2.2%), blacks (up 37%), Hispanics (up 28%) and Asians (1.4%).

The data tracking firm said Wonder Woman 1984 tracked 3 million Max households across its Christmas opening weekend through the end of 2020. It was Disney/Pixar’s streaming of animated Soul on Christmas that generated the largest opening weekend, at more than 3.2 million Disney+ households.

Previous Warner releases Zach Snyder’s Justice LeagueThe Little Things and Tom & Jerry generated 1.8 million, 1.4 million and 1.2 million opening weekend Max household viewership, respectively, according to Samba TV.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Continues Pandemic Box Office Domination; Tops $350 Million Globally

Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Entertainment’s monster sequel Godzilla vs. Kong continued its pandemic haul, generating an estimated $13.3 million at more than 3,000 U.S. theaters through April 11, bringing its box office tally to $69 million domestically, $350 million worldwide. Notably, the domestic revenue comes as the movie is concurrently available to subscribers on HBO Max for 31 days.

The global tally is rapidly approaching Warner’s Tenet, which tracked more than $363 million in global ticket sales.

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“We’re thrilled that Godzilla vs. Kong is bringing audiences back into theaters where they are open around the world, and also delivering for our HBO Max subscribers in their homes here in the U.S.,” Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said in a statement. “It’s truly a pleasure for all of us at Warner Bros. and HBO Max to be able to thank and congratulate Adam, Legendary and the entire GvK team on the great results for this terrific movie.”

Other top 10 theatrical titles included Universal Pictures’ Nobody with $2.65 million ($15.6 million) at 2,400 theaters ; Sony Pictures’ The Unholy with $2.4 million ($6.7 million) at 1,850 theaters; Disney/Pixar’s Raya and the Last Dragon with $2.14 million ($35.2 million) at 1,941 theaters; Lionsgate’s Voyagers with $1.35 million;  Warner’s Tom & Jerry with $1.11 million ($41.1 million) at 1,826  theaters; Atlas Distribution’s The Girl Who Believes in Miracles with $597,000/$1.3 million; The Courier (RSA) with $436,500 ($4.9 million) at 1,007 theaters; Vakeel Saab with $411,500; Lionsgate’s Chaos Walking with $265,000 ($12.67 million).

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Largest-Ever HBO Max Streaming Audience

Movie monsters Godzilla and King Kong continue to lead a path of destruction across Hollywood and the theatrical world. After pandemic-era box office highs through Easter Sunday, Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Entertainment’s Godzilla vs. Kong also slayed on streaming.

The film is available in the United States on HBO Max in 4K UHD with HDR-10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos on supported devices for 31 days from its theatrical release date. Through the end of 2020, HBO and HBO Max had a combined 41 million subscribers in the United States.

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“The HBO Max audience has spoken very clearly and loudly: They love this film and are watching it more than once,” Andy Forssell, EVP and GM of WarnerMedia direct-to-consumer, said in a statement. “Comparing audience metrics in the first four days since its release, Godzilla vs. Kong had a larger viewing audience than any other film or show on HBO Max since launch.”

WarnerMedia has not officially released streaming data for Godzilla vs. Kong.

The movie, along with every other Warner theatrical release starting with Wonder Woman 1984, is available concurrently for no additional charge on Max. Previous releases such as Zach Snyder’s Justice League, The Little Things and Tom & Jerry generated 1.8 million, 1.4 million and 1.2 million opening weekend Max household viewers, respectively, according to Samba TV.

Wonder Woman 1984 tracked 3 million Max households across its Christmas opening weekend through the end of 2020, according to Samba TV, which tracks streaming habits among more than 19 million connected televisions. Notably, it was Disney/Pixar’s streaming of animated Soul on Christmas that generated the largest opening streaming weekend, at more than 3.2 million Disney+ households.