Unless you've been living under a rock (or are enjoying a life that doesn't include obsessively devouring entertainment news), you've probably heard that Warner Brothers will be releasing their entire 2021 slate of films through their streaming service (and occasional superhero) HBO Max. Like with Wonder Woman 1984, subscribers will be able to stream movies the same day they hit theaters, such as Dune, The Matrix 4, and Tom & Jerry, in which the classic cartoon characters invade the real world, presumably because it also takes place inside of the Matrix.
And ... it's hard to know how to feel about all of this. On the one hand, there are legitimate fears that this will further devastate the already bludgeoned movie theater industry. But regardless of Warner Brothers' decision, medical experts have repeatedly warned against going to cinemas right now. And Dr. Fauci has publicly stated that it will take at least a year following the introduction of an effective vaccine before activities like theater-going become safe again. So it's unclear just how sustainable the movie theater business will be in the near future, regardless of this news, when even the theaters that are open are viewed as a potential health hazard. The fact that so few people turned up to be confused and irritated by a big-screen presentation of Tenet only underscored that uncertainty.
And presumably, a lot of movie fans are conflicted about this development. We want to support theaters and movie-going, obviously. But it's hard to deny that people aren't excited to be getting any new movies right now -- and pumping tentpole movies directly into people's homes will keep them from wandering outside and spreading germs. Plus, maybe it will help shake the feeling that we're living in a purgatorial pop-culture vacuum. One in which we're all so starved for new entertainment, we treated the depressing true story of bitter eccentrics running janky Florida zoos as if it were a goddamn Avengers movie.
Even some folks in the industry don't totally know how to interpret the news. Yes, being released online could hurt potential ticket sales, but it also means that theaters are guaranteed a "significant slate of big movies throughout 2021," whereas other studios just keep delaying their release dates until sometime between now and when the kid who plays Young Sheldon applies for social security.
It also doesn't seem like a great long-term plan for Warner Brothers. While they can help gin-up business for their new streaming service using these ready-made blockbusters, they surely can't continue to pump that kind of money into streaming content without jacking up their prices and losing subscribers. And HBO Max isn't available outside of the U.S. Even in Canada, these movies won't be released on an equivalent service, which will presumably just lead to a wave of, not theater attendance, but piracy.
"COMING SOON TO HBO MAX! And Bit-Torrent."
This news has inspired a range of odd takes (including an entire article devoted to questioning what former Ronald Reagan, who has been dead for 16 years, would think of all this). But we're just going to hope that A) theaters are somehow able to weather this storm and B) Warner Brothers' decision will only reinforce how valuable movie theaters are. After all, blockbusters like Godzilla vs Kong were meant to be watched with a crowd, on a screen the size of a building, accompanied by ground-rattling sound -- not alone, in an apartment, with the sound of your neighbors having sex leaking through the wall.
Top Image: Warner Bros.