Warner Bros’ biggest 2022 films will likely debut in cinemas ahead of streaming

A return to the traditional theatre-first model

The CEO of WarnerMedia has said it’s likely that its biggest films will premiere in theatres ahead of streaming next year.

Jason Kilar said it’s “very fair” to state that big-budget Warner Bros. films will now debut in the traditional way, following its experimentation with simultaneous theatre and home streaming releasing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kilar told Vox‘s Recode podcast: “I think it’s very fair to say that a big, you know, let’s say a big DC movie… it’s very fair to say that that would go exclusively to theatres first and then go to somewhere like an HBO Max after it’s in theatres.”

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Movies that could premiere in theatres include The Batman.

The Batman
Robert Pattinson in ‘The Batman’. CREDIT: DC Entertainment/Warner Bros.

Last December, Warner upended Hollywood when it announced it would release movies including Dune and The Matrix 4 in cinemas and on its HBO Max streamer simultaneously.

The move caused a substantial outcry within the film industry. Dune director Denis Villeneuve was particularly outspoken about the proposal of a hybrid release, writing in an op-ed that Warner Bros. “might just have killed the franchise”. He explained his fears that the move to HBO Max would directly impact the film’s chances of success. “Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of Dune‘s scope and scale,” he wrote.

But the box office success of Godzilla vs. Kong, which was released in US cinemas and HBO Max on the same day last weekend, suggests the hybrid model works. The Warner Bros. film set a new pandemic box office record by scoring the biggest US opening weekend in over a year – taking $48.5million (£35m).

Godzilla vs. Kong
‘Godzilla vs. Kong’, a fight-night for the ages. CREDIT: Warner Bros.

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Kilar added to Vox that he’s pleased with the results of Godzilla vs. Kong, but wished he had given greater warner of his company’s hybrid model decision last year. “There’s no doubt that it was bumpy back in early December of last year. If I had the chance to do it over again, I think it’s very fair to say that we would have taken a couple more days to see if we could have had even more conversations than we were able to have.”

The news follows recent reports that Dune might premiere in theatres instead of its proposed simultaneous release on HBO Max after all.

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