As the pandemic raged in late 2020, Warner Bros. made the controversial announcement that it would release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max simultaneously with theater release dates. The move angered not only top filmmakers like Christopher Nolan but also the theater industry, which has been hit significantly hard since the pandemic started. Things were looking up as both F9 and Black Widow performed well, and made it seem like theatrical movie-going was roaring back. But just a few weeks later, the Delta variant rapidly spiked cases, and The Suicide Squad felt the brunt of it as box-office sales cratered.
However, even as the fall movie season looks unpredictable, Warner Bros. has made a serious commitment to theatrical releases in 2022. The studio has agreed to a 45-day theatrical window with AMC, which will effectively end the HBO Max day and date release strategy. Via Deadline:
“We’re especially pleased that Warners has has decided to move away from day-and-date releases and commit to theatrical windows as well,” said [AMC Entertainment CEO Adam] Aron. “We’re having conversations with other movie studios in Hollywood.”
Aron said that studios’ experimenting with the theatrical window was as a result of the pandemic, adding, “We’re seeing the consensus that exclusive theatrical window is a good way to build major motion picture franchises.”
While the HBO Max release strategy was controversial thanks to being sprung on filmmakers with little to no warning, The Suicide Squad director James Gunn seemed to come around to it in recent days. For the record, he’s absolutely committed to the theatrical experience, but he’s not sweating how or where his movies are viewed.
“Listen, movies don’t last because they’re seen on the big screen,” Gunn told Variety. “Movies last because they’re seen on television. ‘Jaws’ isn’t still a classic because people are watching it in theaters. I’ve never seen “Jaws” in a movie theater. It’s one of my favorite movies.”