The vast majority of large companies such as AMC, Regal, and Cinemark had to close the doors of their multiplexes between March and May 2020.
WarnerMedia's strategic choices are already producing
changes in Hollywood.
"Warner doesn't like movies". This statement by director Denis Villeneuve illustrates the state of mind of many film industry players regarding the company's strategy. As a reminder, WarnerMedia announced last December that all of its films, which will be released in theaters in 2021, will be simultaneously streamed on HBO Max for one month in the United States. This concerns a total of 17 high-budget feature films, including Matrix 4, Dune, and The Suicide Squad.
This is the first time that a major company in the industry has chosen to broadcast its blockbusters directly on SVOD. Far from being insignificant, this decision already has direct consequences on the film industry. It is of great concern to U.S. exhibitors, who are in great difficulty following the covid-19 pandemic.
Theatres concerned about their future
The vast majority of large companies such as AMC, Regal, and Cinemark had to close the doors of their multiplexes between March and May 2020. AMC even declared last June that "we are not generating any revenue", with losses already in the billions of dollars.
Adam Aron, the company's president, seems to see through Warner Media's game:
"WarnerMedia intends to sacrifice a significant portion of the profitability of its film studio branch, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize the launch of HBO Max. As for AMC, we will do everything in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively engage in economic terms to preserve our business."
In a context where some companies could go bankrupt, this announcement is therefore frightening, especially since U.S. consumers now prefer to watch movies in streaming rather than in theaters. For example, in a survey of 1,000 people commissioned by Variety, 70% of respondents wanted to watch feature films at home, while only 13% planned to go to the cinema.
Hollywood stars are moving up the ladder
Warner's decision also has concrete consequences for artists. This project has created a conflict with the two main actors' agencies: William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists. Indeed, stars receive two separate fees for their participation in a film: one is paid before shooting and the other is based on the number of admissions.
This balance was upset and Hollywood stars were quick to claim their due. This is the case of Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot, who each received a cheque for ten million dollars for Wonder Woman 1984.
Angelina Jolie's agents, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Keanu Reeves, Margot Robbie, and Denzel Washington were then heard and an arm-wrestling match is now underway. Those involved in Warner's feature films in 2021 want to be treated in the same way as the protagonists of the DC universe. It is not known at this time whether an agreement has been reached, but it could end up costing the company quite a lot of money.
With this new strategy, Warner has created a stir in the industry. However, the company has been careful to present these measures as transitional, until the health crisis ends, and there is no indication that they will be maintained next year.
We can see that the pandemic has had its effects and that SVOD is increasingly appealing to consumers. Theatrical exhibitors are also struggling, and attendance has dropped by 70% by 2020.