To catch you up quickly, yesterday Warners announced that it would be doing a version of day-and-date for its 2021 releases. Movies would be available in theaters at the same time as they are available on HBO Max. The movies would only stay on Max for one month, and then move to digital to be rent or bought while still in their theater window.
This news made Warner's stock jump and got the internet buzzing. While many of us are rightfully worried about theater chains, this was an excellent way for WB to get more subscribers to HBO Max. The company is well behind Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+, so this is a way to recoup some funds (which it lost last year) and get its foot in the door with the streaming wars.
But AMC was incredibly pissed at this announcement.
AMC Boss Adam Aron had this to say (and he didn't mince words), “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."
After that barb, he went in for the kill, saying, "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."
He finishes, “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.”
These are powerful words—good for rallying the troops—but do they really mean anything?
Streaming has now been around for two decades and was always seen as a barrier for theaters moving forward. AMC has had plenty of time to adapt to the changing climate and business models. All it came up with was the Stubs program, and you can't stream those movies.
The theater chain could have started its own streaming service or changed its exhibition terms with the studios much earlier.
People want entertainment now, and studios are trying to deliver it, to ease the crushing losses from 2020.
I see where theaters are coming from, and there is nothing I love more than a day out at the movies, but I also understand that the future of the business has always been changing. And the advent of streaming is actually changing the kinds of movies that are being made. We're seeing many more genres and diversity in the choices streamers are making.
This is a tough time for business. AMC is struggling to survive, and I hope it does. The business is changing so fast now, it's hard to see what's coming next. But streaming has been around for a while, and with the pandemic nearing almost a year at length, people had to see this coming.
What do you think will happen next?
Let us know in the comments.