Jason Kilar: Warner Bros. Producing 10 More Theatrical Releases Streaming Concurrently on HBO Max in 2022

WarnerMedia made headlines this year releasing the entire Warner Bros. theatrical slate concurrently on HBO Max for a movie’s first 31 days of release.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, speaking on the July 22 fiscal call, said the controversial strategy through six months reveals the enduring importance of the box office ($463 million in revenue domestically through June 30) coupled with the impact technology has made on distribution.

“Clearly motion pictures matter and will continue to matter when it comes to theatrical exhibition,” Kilar said. “They also matter at home, and absolutely in terms of the response that we’ve gotten…from all of our day-and-date titles. We feel very good about the response that consumers have given it in the home.”

Jason Kilar

As the exhibition business turns the page on the pandemic and more moviegoers are vaccinated, Kilar, who is on tap to remain CEO of WarnerMedia into next year heading into the completion of the Discovery merger, doesn’t anticipate movie distribution returning to the lengthy theatrical window.

He said that while some Warner titles in 2022 will have a 45-day window, the studio is also going to be producing more than 10 movies that will be available on HBO Max and in theaters on day one.

“I think that what you’re going to see is this industry continues to evolve, and to continue to innovate in ways that not only works for consumers and fans, but also works for our business partners,” Kilar said.

Separately, AT&T CEO John Stankey said the telecom has heard nothing from federal regulators regarding the merger that will transform WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery and see Discovery CEO Davis Zaslav running the unit.

Stankey said the regulatory process involves document production and providing information that’s responsive to the government’s requests to begin the reviews.

“No news is good news,” he said. “I’ll tell you internally, all the normal steps are going on to be prepared operationally for when we would expect an approval. It’s not a complicated transaction.”

Warner’s ‘Mortal Kombat’ Claims Second Week Atop U.K. Home Entertainment Chart

Martial arts fantasy Mortal Kombat claimed a second week at No. 1 on the U.K.’s Official Film Chart. Outselling the competition on physical formats and performing strongly on digital, the Warner Home Video release comfortably holds onto its lead from last week, while the studio’s Godzilla vs. Kong held on at No. 2.

Meanwhile, the cinematic release of sequels sent two movies up the chart: 1996’s Space Jam climbs to a new peak at No. 3 thanks to the cinematic release of its long-awaited sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy – this week’s biggest title on digital downloads – while The Croods also sees an uplift following the launch of The Croods: A New Age, rising two spots to No. 4.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (Warner) dropped to No. 5, and Disney’s Raya And The Last Dragon rebounded to No. 6.

Promising Young Woman (Universal Pictures) made its Official Film Chart debut at No. 7 on digital downloads only. Starring Carey Mulligan as a woman traumatized by events from her past and dressed to kill, seeks revenge on those who wronged her and her loved ones.

Tom & Jerry: The Movie dropped three spots to No. 8, landing just ahead of 2000 Guy Ritchie crime-comedy, Snatch (Sony Pictures), which lands on the chart for the very first time at No. 9 following the release of a 20th Anniversary 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc re-release.

Finally, Academy Award-winning Nomadland (20th Century Film) dropped three spots to No. 10.

The Official Film Chart Top 10 – July 21, 2021

Last Week Position Movie Distributor
1 1 MORTAL KOMBAT (2021) WARNER HOME VIDEO
2 2 GODZILLA VS KONG WARNER HOME VIDEO
4 3 SPACE JAM WARNER HOME VIDEO
6 4 THE CROODS DREAMWORKS ANIMATION
3 5 ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE WARNER HOME VIDEO
9 6 RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON WALT DISNEY
NEW 7 PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN UNIVERSAL PICTURES
5 8 TOM & JERRY – THE MOVIE (2021) WARNER HOME VIDEO
NEW 9 SNATCH SONY PICTURES HE
7 10 NOMADLAND 20TH CENTURY FOX HE

© Official Charts Company 2021

Is Clint Eastwood Closing the Book on 60+ Year Career?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Clint Eastwood, the uniquely American cultural and cinematic icon, put out a cryptic social media post Sunday (July 18) evening that suggests the 91-year-old actor, Oscar-winning director and producer could be winding down a 60+ year career in the public eye.

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Eastwood, who started his career in the 1950s on television, has more than 65 movies to his credit, ranging from spaghetti westerns A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the “Dirty Harry” franchise, and action comedies Every Which But Loose and Any Which Way You Can. He cemented his critical legacy in 1992, winning Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for Unforgiven.

In 2003, Eastwood directed Mystic River, which won Oscars for co-stars Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. Eastwood won again in 2004 with Million Dollar Baby, co-starring Hilary Swank, who also won an Oscar. The actor’s personal box office clout soared again in 2008, starring in and directing Gran Torino.

Eastwood’s latest effort, the Warner Bros. neo-western Cry Macho, in which he co-stars and directs, is set to debut theatrically and on HBO Max Sept. 17.

Space Jam: A New Legacy

STREAMING REVIEW:

Warner/HBO Max;
Comedy;
Rated ‘PG’ for some cartoon violence and some language.
Stars LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, Khris Davis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Ceyair J Wright, Harper Leigh Alexander, Sue Bird, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi.

Borrowing the same basic concept of its 1996 predecessor, Space Jam: A New Legacy dives into the realm of video games to bring the Looney Tunes back to the basketball court.

As with the original, the story involves an NBA player teaming up with Bugs Bunny and the gang in a high-stakes basketball game with dire consequences if they lose. The 1996 version starred Michael Jordan, who was recruited to help save the Tunes from being imprisoned by the owner of a cartoon amusement park planet.

The 21st century version of the premise involves LeBron James, the current era’s equivalent of a player with Jordan’s superstar stature. However, fans of the original film looking for another fun romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously will likely find themselves disappointed early in the proceedings, as A New Legacy quickly devolves into what is essentially a promotional reel for Warner Bros. IP.

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Space Jam: A New Legacy plays like a collaboration between the marketing departments of the NBA and WarnerMedia, resulting in a script that seems like it was developed by a PR committee that just finished a marathon of the original Space Jam, Ready Player One, Tron and the “Wreck-It Ralph” movies.

The story involves LeBron being recruited by Warner Bros., for a partnership involving a new slate of films in which he would be scanned into a computer and inserted into several movies created by a algorithm named Al G. Rhythm (given humanoid form by Don Cheadle) that controls the supercomputer where all Warner’s characters are stored.

LeBron’s reaction to this little piece of meta-commentary on Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy is to declare that the idea of athletes acting in movies is a bad idea, and thus Al’s proposal is stupid. The movie then proceeds to do exactly what it thinks it’s cleverly making fun of.

After Al takes offense to LeBron’s rejection, he somehow traps LeBron and his movie son, Dom (Cedric Joe), in the computer to get revenge.

Conveniently for the plot, 12-year-old Dom is some sort of genius video game designer, so Al steals his basketball video game as the arena for the contest that will allow LeBron to win his son back and earn their freedom.

For their team, the Goon Squad, Al and Dom create super-powered avatars based on some of the top NBA and WNBA players. All LeBron has to do is recruit a team of Warner Bros. characters to compete with them. His first instincts are to team up with the likes of Superman and King Kong, but then LeBron meets Bugs Bunny and his plans are derailed.

It seems Bugs is the only character left in the Looney Tunes section of the Warner Bros. Serververse (where each franchise has its own “world” that looks like a cartoon planet) because Al convinced the other Tunes their talents would be better served elsewhere. Daffy Duck, for example, hangs out in the DC Comics-based world posing as superman, complete with the John Williams theme.

Bugs uses LeBron’s predicament as an excuse to round up his friends on the pretense that they’re the ones being recruited to play. And thus, LeBron ends up teaming up with the Tune Squad for the big game, just like Mike 25 years earlier.

LeBron’s version, though, is more of a reboot or a remake than a sequel. It’s a completely standalone adventure that makes just a few passing references to the original while mostly ignoring its established worldbuilding. The original featured the Tunes as real-world characters living in their own realm beneath the surface of Earth (not unlike Toontown from Who Framed Roger Rabbit), while the bad guys were cartoon aliens from another planet, hence the “space” in Space Jam. The new iteration is more like “Cyberspace Jam” given how it pretty much all takes place in virtual reality.

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The creators of A New Legacy also appear to have misunderstood what made the story of the original work beyond the basic premise. The original film was as much the story of Jordan rediscovering his love of basketball as it was about the Looney Tunes playing alongside him. The movie famously chronicles Jordan’s real-life foray into an attempt to play professional baseball after he abruptly retired from the NBA following three championships. The film ties into this by having the evil aliens steal the talent from top NBA stars; as Jordan was away from basketball, his talent was left intact, leaving him for the Looney Tunes to recruit.

A New Legacy, on the other hand, has such a cut-and-paste story that they could have plugged nearly any marketable NBA player into it without it being fundamentally different, since the player’s family at the center of the story is entirely fictional. And then they chose LeBron James, one of the most unlikable players in the NBA, who in some metrics is considered the league’s most-hated player.

For the big game, the movie’s creators are essentially just playing a game of “spot the famous Warner Bros. character” in the audience, as the court is surrounded by extras dressed in recognizable costumes but who bear little resemblance to the original actors who played them (the guy dressed as Robin from the 1960s “Batman” show is especially distracting as he dances around every time he’s on camera).

As much as it all is an excuse for glitzy graphics and flashy colors, it should at the very least keep small children entertained.

‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ With ‘Magical Movie Mode’ to Bow on Disc and Digital Aug. 17

The 2001 family film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will be released on digital, Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 17 with “Magical Movie Mode,” a new way to experience the film, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for its 20th anniversary.

The “Harry Potter Magical Movie Mode” allows fans the ability to discover filmmaking secrets, spell incantations, creatures, magical artifacts, trivia, and more in a collection of activities and curiosities.  “Magical Movie Mode” includes director’s commentary from director Chris Columbus offering candid insight and amusing anecdotes from the production of the first film, deleted scenes, quizzes testing knowledge of a vast array of topics from the film, graphics, and audio during select scenes in the film.

In the first film in the franchise, Harry Potter finds out he is the orphaned son of two wizards and embarks on an amazing journey. During his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry learns he is destined for great things and discovers a dark wizard is determined to destroy him.

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The two-disc Blu-ray set of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — Magical Movie Mode will be available at $19.98 and includes the theatrical film and the “Magical Movie Mode” version of the film in high-definition. It will also be available on DVD as a two-disc set at $16.98 and includes the theatrical film and “Magical Movie Mode” version of the film in standard-definition.  The film will also be available digitally on participating digital platforms where you purchase movies.

‘Black Widow’ vs. King James in Weekend Box Office Face-Off

Superhero movie Black Widow goes up against Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James at the domestic weekend box office through July 18. James is starring in Space Jam: A New Legacy, Warner Bros. Pictures’ Looney Tunes animated/live-action sequel to the 1996 original Space Jam featuring Michael Jordan.

While the original generated more than $230 million at the global box office, A New Legacy is not expected to top Disney/Marvel Studios’ Widow featuring Scarlett Johansson in the title role. The movie has topped $200 million at the worldwide box office, including $100 million in the U.S. — becoming just the fourth release to do that in the pandemic era.

Other movies surpassing $100 million domestically include Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II with $150 million, Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga ($141.9 million), and Warner’s Godzilla vs. Kong ($100.6  million).

An unknown factor in the weekly box office sweepstakes: a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant, which has led Los Angeles County health officials to mandate the wearing of masks indoors, including in movie theaters, beginning at midnight on Saturday. It is unknown whether these and similar restrictions in other parts of the country will impact movie theater attendance.

The weekend’s other major newcomer is Sony Pictures Entertainment’s thriller Escape Room: Tournament of Champions.

‘In the Heights’ Dancing to Premium Digital July 30, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 31

The musical In the Heights will be available for  premium digital sale ($24.99) and rental ($19.99, 48 hours) July 30, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and standard digital Aug. 31 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The film is directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Broadway’s Hamilton) music and lyrics. It stars Anthony Ramos (A Star Is Born, Broadway’s Hamilton) and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, BlacKkKlansman). The film also stars singer/songwriter Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (TV’s “Vida”), Olga Merediz (Broadway’s In the Heights), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s Rent), Gregory Diaz IV (Broadway’s Matilda the Musical), Stephanie Beatriz (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Dascha Polanco (TV’s “Orange Is the New Black”) and Jimmy Smits (the “Star Wars” films).

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In the film set in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies a vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

Special features on the 4K Ultra HD combo pack and Blu-ray include several featurettes and sing-alongs. The DVD includes one featurette.

‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ Coming to Premium Digital Ownership, Rental July 23, Disc Aug. 24

The horror film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It will arrive for premium digital ownership and rental July 23 and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 24.

Directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) and starring Vera Farmiga (Annabelle Comes Home, TV’s “Bates Motel”) and Patrick Wilson (Annabelle Comes Home, The Nun), the film was produced by James Wan and Peter Safran, who have collaborated on all the “Conjuring” Universe films.

The film also stars Ruairi O’Connor (Starz’ “The Spanish Princess”), Sarah Catherine Hook (Hulu’s “Monsterland”) and Julian Hilliard (“Wandavision,” TV’s “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” and “The Haunting of Hill House”).

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The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is based on a case of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. It starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then takes them beyond anything they’d ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.

Special features on 4K and Blu-ray Disc include:

  • “By Reason of Demonic Possession,” an in depth look at the true story that inspired the movie (also available on the DVD);
  • “The Occultist,” exploring the new addition to the Conjuring Universe;
  • “Exorcism of Fear,” delving into the making of the movie and the chilling exorcism scene that opens the film; and
  • “DC Horror Presents The Conjuring: The Lover #1,” a video comic that takes you deeper into the Conjuring Universe.

Universal Dominates July 4 Weekend Box Office, Led by ‘F9’ Topping $100 Million in Domestic Revenue

Universal Pictures is projected to rule the July 4 weekend domestic box office, led by F9: The Fast Saga, which is expected to end the holiday weekend with $32.9 million across more than 4,200 screens. The ninth installment in the action franchise has totaled about $126 million in the U.S., and more than $460 million in revenue worldwide.

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With Disney/Marvel Studio’s Black Widow launching next weekend, Universal expedited rolling out sequels The Boss Baby: Family Business and The Forever Purge over the July 4 weekend, with the former generating a projected $26 million across 3,644 screens, while The Forever Purge generated about $16 million. Both movies exceeded industry estimates — underscoring the strength of the franchises and the box office’s return to normalcy following the pandemic as more moviegoers in major markets get fully vaccinated.

Among the top five movies over the weekend, Paramount Pictures’ enduring post-apocalyptic sequel A Quiet Place Part II generated an estimated $5 million, while Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard added another $4 million.

Despite Universal’s impressive weekend, Warner Bros. Pictures tops the year-to-date domestic box office with a reported $328.4 in revenue, followed by Universal with $192.4 million, and Paramount with $141.1 million. Warner’s tally is all the more impressive considering its entire 2021 theatrical slate has streamed concurrently for free to HBO Max subscribers.

Godzilla vs. Kong

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/15/21;
Warner;

Sci-Fi;
Box Office $100.1 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir.

The title fight between two monster-movie heavyweights delivers pretty much what one might expect from such a premise: a lot of spectacle, flashy visual effects, rampaging destruction on a massive scale, and a completely disposable story to provide the flimsiest of excuses to set it all up.

The clash between Godzilla and King Kong is a rematch of sorts, the pair having faced off in 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, a Japanese production from the “Godzilla” creative team (and the third “Godzilla” movie to that point). But this is their first encounter in the new “Monsterverse” franchise that began with 2014’s Godzilla remake, which got a sequel in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters featuring Godzilla battling several of his traditional enemies. This Kong was introduced in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, a 1970s-set adventure film in which humanity discovered the giant ape and all the strange creatures of his mysterious homeland.

Godzilla vs. Kong is under no illusions that it exists for any reason other than to put the two titans together. It even structures the opening credits as a tournament bracket showing which creatures each defeated in the previous movies.

The story, such as it is, involves Godzilla attacking research facilities of a company called Apex and putting the local population in danger. Apex wants to access the power source of the mythical “Hollow Earth” (a hidden underground world) to power a defense against Godzilla, and recruits a scientist named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to lead the expedition. To access Hollow Earth, they need two things: special vehicles that can withstand the gravitational fluxes of the subterranean barrier, and a Titan to locate an entrance. Lind knows a scientist (Rebecca Hall) who runs a facility on Skull Island where in the past 40 years they’ve managed to entrap Kong and keep him contained in a giant dome.

Anyway, the plan is to take Kong to Antarctica to locate a portal. But since Godzilla can sense the presence of other Titans, he can track Kong once the ape leaves the dome. So Godzilla attacks the fleet transporting Kong, and the Titans have their first throwdown on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and it’s pretty awesome.

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Meanwhile, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) from King of the Monsters joins up with a conspiracy podcaster to investigate why Godzilla would be attacking cities again, since she believes Godzilla is meant to protect the world. So they look into Apex and discover the company is building Mechagodzilla, the famed giant robot version of Godzilla, which the original Godzilla doesn’t like.

Through some more plot mechanics, Kong ends up in Hollow Earth and finds his ancestral homeland and an ancient axe his ancestors once used to fight Godzilla’s ancestors in some ancient war between the Titans. The axe allows Kong to harness the same radiation Godzilla uses, which evens the playing field a bit since Godzilla is a lizard that can fire nuclear blasts from his mouth, while Kong isn’t much more than a big monkey.

But Kong turns out to be pretty smart, and to speed things along the movie treats Kong as another protagonist, communicating with a little deaf girl from his island in order to join forces with the humans against Godzilla.

So, Godzilla attacks the Apex facility that is building Mechagodzilla, and Kong returns to the surface to fight him again, and glorious destruction of many neon buildings ensues. It’s quite a sight to behold. And the facility is in Hong Kong, because of course King Kong has to end up in Hong Kong or else what is even the point of it all?

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The Blu-ray of the film is loaded with more than an hour of featurettes exploring the history of Godzilla and Kong and the making of their epic clash. Many of the featurettes are also available with copies from select digital retailers.

The extras are broken down by character, so there are two focused on Godzilla, four focused on Kong, and one on Mechagodzilla. There are also three featurettes covering the major fight scenes, one for each.

For the Godzilla featurettes, “Godzilla Attacks” is a six-and-a-half-minute look at the character’s use in this particular story, while the 10-minute “The Penomenon of Gojira, King of the Monsters” is a look at the history of the creature in film, featuring interviews from cast members and filmmakers from all the Monsterverse movies.

The Kong featurettes mostly deal with visual effects and production design, with one, the eight-and-a-half-minute “The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a history of King Kong as told through interviews with Monsterverse filmmakers. In a not altogether unexpected move, only clips from Warner-owned Kong movies are shown; the 1976 (Paramount( and 2005 (Universal) remakes are mentioned briefly without any clips from them being played.

The regular Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions include an exclusive commentary track by director Adam Wingard. Much of his discussion centers on technical details, but Wingard is also a fan of the characters and admits that part of his motivation for making the movie was to follow up on debates he had in second grade about who would win in a fight by making sure the character he had always picked would end up winning.

Originally published as a streaming review April 19, 2021.