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From Dune to The Suicide Squad, WB's entire 2021 slate to open on HBO Max and in theaters

By Josh Weiss

Wonder Woman 1984's dual rollout in theaters and on HBO Max later this month will not be a one-off for Warner Bros. Not by a long shot.

The studio will apply the unique hybrid strategy to all of its 2021 releases, including Denis Villeneuve's Dune (Oct. 1, 2021), James Gunn's The Suicide Squad (Aug. 5, 2021), and Lana Wachowski's fourth Matrix film (Dec. 22, 2021). This rather unexpected move comes as theaters — and by extension, the global box office — continue to struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While this plan is only going into effect for one year, WB could be setting a permanent precedent for how blockbusters are released, even once the health crisis has abated. In any case, this option is seemingly preferable to delaying release dates indefinitely as more and more finished projects continue to pile up. 

The studio's film slate for next year comprises nearly 17 movies. Genre heavy-hitters like Godzilla vs. Kong (May 21, 2021), Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16, 2021), Tom & Jerry (March 5, 2021), Mortal Kombat (release is TBD), The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (June 4, 2021), and Malignant (release is TBD) are among the list.

“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group said in a statement. “No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021. With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren’t quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films. We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances.”

Warner Bros. watertower

“After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months,” added Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia. “More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”

“This hybrid exhibition model enables us to best support our films, creative partners and moviegoing in general throughout 2021,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We have a fantastic, wide ranging slate of titles from talented and visionary filmmakers next year, and we’re excited to be able get these movies in front of audiences around the world. And, as always, we’ll support all of our releases with innovative and robust marketing campaigns for their theatrical debuts, while highlighting this unique opportunity to see our films domestically via HBO Max as well.”

Wonder Woman 1984 hits theaters and HBO Max Christmas Day (Friday, Dec. 25). Every tentpole debuted on the streaming service will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR.