Warner Bros. will simultaneously release 2021 movies on HBO Max and in theaters

Warner Bros. announced Thursday that it will make its full 2021 film slate available to stream for a one-month period each, exclusively on HBO Max. Each of the films will be simultaneously released in theaters and available for the limited window on the streaming service.

The new hybrid model represents a novel deviation from the typical program studios follow, where films are released in theaters first, and then hit other platforms months later.

Movie theater stock prices fell on the news. AMC shares dropped more than 15 percent, while Cinemark was down 14.5 percent.

The move comes as theaters continue to be closed in many markets because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In U.S. markets where theaters have reopened, sales and attendance do not match pre-pandemic levels.

After the one-month period on HBO Max, the films will be taken off the platform and continue to show in theaters in the U.S. and internationally. HBO Max and Warner Bros. are both owned by WarnerMedia, which in turn is owned by AT&T.

The first movie to be released using this model will be “Wonder Woman 1984” later this month. Among the movies expected to be released this way in 2021 are “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Tom & Jerry,” “In The Heights,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Reminiscence,” “Malignant,” “Dune” and “Matrix 4.”

“We’re living in unprecedented times, which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”

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