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AMC and other major exhibitors weren't aware of Warner Bros. 2021 hybrid release plan, and they aren't pleased

The AMC 14 on 34th Street in New York City
(Image credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

AMC didn't have kind words after finding out about Warner Bros. plans to release their entire 2021 film slate via a hybrid model that would put their movies both in theaters and on HBO Max throughout all of next year. Turns out, most major theatrical exhibitors weren't notified of WB's plans. Reportedly, there are some production companies who had no idea either, namely Legendary in regards to their Godzilla vs. Kong release. 

Adam Aron, chair and CEO of AMC, didn't play games in his official statement.

“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.”

All North American theatrical exhibitors have a reason to be miffed about the situation, especially given how hard theaters have been hit with absolutely no government assistance to stay afloat. AMC, however, is kind of throwing some stones while living in glass houses. This Warner Bros. plan is just for 2021 (for the time being) meanwhile, the theater mega-chain destroyed the theatrical window earlier this year in an attempt to save themselves. 

This news especially stings for the AMC, as the chain opened up more stock for purchase to help them stay afloat just days before this Warner Bros. announcement. Said stock took a hit immediately after the news. 

Cineworld, a company with stakes in both the US (Regal) and the UK (Cineworld) was a tad kinder in their response, but no less interested in ensuring Warner Bros. remembers the proper theatrical window throughout all of this. It also bears mentioning that Cineworld cinemas in the UK will likely be able to open later in 2021, and that Warner Bros. plans only affect the US proper. So, kinder, but with at least a glimpse at some kind of revenue stream in the coming year.

Cineworld's CEO Mooky Greidinger had the below to say:

“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.”

Amelia Emberwing

Survives on a steady IV of caffeine, rants, pixie dust and fangirling. Will probably sass you.