AMC Is Not Amused By Warner Bros.’ HBO Max Release Plans

Ever since Warner Bros. changed the entire industry yesterday by announcing their entire 2021 film slate would be available simultaneously on HBO Max, the question has been how theater owners are taking the news. With many of the biggest exhibitors hanging on by a thread, this game-changing decision could spell doom. Well, the biggest exhibitor of them all, AMC, has chimed in and, shocker, they aren’t happy.

AMC Theatres chief Adam Aron, a name we normally would never know but have heard a lot about this year, is pissed at the move made by WarnerMedia which he says will “sacrifice” the industry just to turn a profit. Damn.

“These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, Wonder Woman 1984, being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height. However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theatre business is expected to recover.

Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.

We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.

As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand. So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.”

Aron’s statement suggests they thought the deal struck with WarnerMedia in regards to Wonder Woman 1984 was going to be it, only to have the rug pulled out.

Looking elsewhere, the second-largest exhibitor, Cineworld, takes as optimistic a view of the news as possible, putting emphasis on their reopening plan in 2021…

“Cineworld was aware of WB’s plan to release Wonder Woman directly to its streaming service, which has been announced at a time when our cinemas remain closed in the US (Regal) and UK (Cineworld). We are very encouraged by the giant steps achieved recently with regards to the COVID-19 vaccination process, which is expected to be put in place earlier than previously anticipated. This will generate significant relief for our industry and enable our cinemas to make a great comeback. We believe that at such a time WB will look to reach an agreement about the proper window and terms that will work for both sides. Big movies are made for the big screen and we cannot wait to reopen our cinemas in Q1 in order to offer our customers, as always, the best place to watch a movie.”

Meanwhile, the #3 exhibitor, Cinemark, doesn’t really have shit to say about it. Not yet, anyway, but I do expect that will change…

“In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis. At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films.”

The doom ‘n gloom scenarios might be overblown, or they might be right on point. It might not take that long for us to find out, given the dire financial straits AMC already finds itself in. For sure, we’re going to be talking about this a lot, including on this week’s podcast.

Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.