While the COVID-19 pandemic has been placing multiple industries into dire straights, the film industry have been trying to find ways to adapt during the closures of theaters leading to a handful of films heading directly to VOD and streaming.
AT&T chief operation officer John Stankey (owners of WarnerMedia/Warner Bros.) on an earnings call via Deadline said that within the new situation WarnerMedia is reevaluating how to release the content that is produced by the company. In his own words:
STANKEY: “We’re evaluating our product distribution strategy, relooking at volumes and the required support levels we need in a down economy. We’re rethinking our theatrical model and looking for ways to accelerate efforts that are consistent with the rapid changes in consumer behavior from the pandemic.”
WarnerMedia is about to launch their own streaming service with HBO Max on May 27th and will continue to find various ways to get their entertainment products out to consumers. Not too long ago, Warner Bros. updated their theatrical releases and one of their animated feature film Scoob! is now going directly to on-demand platforms on May 15th. It’s currently unknown when the United States is fully reopen theaters, despite some optimistic chatter within the industry that things could begin opening around the time that Tenet opens in the summer.
The release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, still has a release date in July and despite the hopes and wishes, the COO is not optimistic:
STANKEY: “Don’t expect that’s going to be a snap-back […] I think that’s going to be something that we’re going to have to watch, the formation of consumer confidence, not just about going to movies, just in general about being back out in public.”
“We were right about the streaming model and HBO Max; Streaming to all demographics is in high demand.”
Well, you should not be shocked if some other feature films end up heading to VOD or see their release dates end up getting further changes.
CEO Ann Sarnoff made statements trying to clarify the studio’s position concerning their commitments to releasing tentpole feature films.
Here it is what Ann said to The Hollywood Reporter:
SARNOFF: “We are committed to – and are excited about – releasing Tenet in theaters this summer or whenever theaters reopen. We remain supportive of the theatrical experience and our exhibition partners, and are confident that our tentpole titles, including Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984, are exactly the type of films that will have people eager to return to theaters.”
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is said to be released on July 17th, but it’s unknown if major theaters will even be open when that date rolls around. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman 1984 for the time being has the release date of August 14th.
There is a good chance those projects will eventually get different release dates in the coming weeks.
While we’ll try to be optimistic, public safety will be the biggest concern moving forward.