Warner Bros to release all 2021 films on HBO Max

Movies will be simultaneously released online and in theatres in an industry reaction to Covid-19

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a scene from "Wonder Woman 1984." The film isn't skipping theaters or moving to 2021, but it is altering course. The last big blockbuster holdout of 2020 is still opening in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day but it will also be made available to HBO Max subscribers free of charge for its first month, Warner Bros. said Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros Pictures via AP)
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Hollywood studio giant Warner Bros will make all of its 2021 film releases available on the HBO Max streaming service and in theatres at the same time, in the most significant industry reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most US cinemas remain closed and there has been relatively weak domestic ticket sales for the blockbuster Tenet.

Films such as the latest Matrix instalment and Godzilla vs Kong will simultaneously be released online and in cinemas. After a month they will only be shown in theatres.

"No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do," said Ann Sarnoff, chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios.

"We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition but we have to balance this with the reality that most theatres in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021."

Warner had already decided to release Wonder Woman 1984  on HBO Max in December, as well as in cinemas.

Theatres have traditionally had exclusive rights to films for up to three months in an arrangement they have defended vigorously.

Shares of AMC Entertainment, the world's largest theatre operator, fell 4 per cent to $4.14 in afternoon trading.