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So long day-and-date! Warner Bros. seals deal with AMC for 45-day theatrical window

By Josh Grossberg
AMC Movie Theater

Much to the relief of theater owners, Warner Bros. pandemic day-and-date release experiment is officially over.

The studio has cinched a pact with AMC Theatres that will see it revert to a 45-day theatrical window for all its upcoming blockbusters in 2022. That's good news for the major movie chains that were alarmed last year when Warners, citing COVID, adopted a temporary strategy of releasing its major 2021 tentpoles simultaneously in theaters and on its new streaming service HBO Max.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, AMC CEO Adam Aron announced the deal during an earnings call with shareholders on Monday.

"We're especially pleased Warner Bros. has decided to move away from day-and-date," the theater chain honcho was quoted as saying. "We are in active dialogue with every major studio."

He added that while the chain was "not at all happy" with Warner's prior industry-disrupting decision, he gave the company credit for reversing course, adding that “an exclusive window is an important way to build big and successful franchises.”

A rep for Warner was unavailable for comment.

Warner Bros. announced in December it would abandon the traditional 90-day theatrical window just as exhibitors were reopening their doors, but hadn't yet returned to full capacity with the vaccine still months away (many still haven't).

Needless to say, the idea didn't go over well with mainstays like AMC and Regal, both of whom criticized the dual roll out, arguing it would help set the stage for a permanent move to day-and-date and jeopardize traditional moviegoing.

It also upset the studio's own stable of filmmakers including Denis Villenueve and Christopher Nolan, both of whom slammed the AT&T-owned company for failing to give them a heads up and pulling a bait and switch and betraying their big screen vision in favor of building up HBO Max's subscriber base.

But Warner Bros. went ahead anyway, premiering in both theaters and on the streamer a slate of highly anticipated flicks including Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs. Kong, Space Jam: A New Legacy, and, just this week, James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. And Warner wasn't the only studio to do so. Disney has made several of its blockbusters like Black Widow and Jungle Cruise available on Disney+. Though the Mouse House's use of the hybrid model has had its own issues –– like the lawsuit Marvel star Scarlett Johansson filed against the studio for breach of contract.

But theater owners' fears about streamers undercutting their business may have turned out to be justified, as the box office for many of these films has been underwhelming. Case in point, Wonder Woman 1984 lassoed $16 million its opening Christmas Day weekend, while seven months later The Suicide Squad pulled in a disappointing $28 million last weekend –– and that's after well over half the population has been vaccinated and the country has regained a little more sense of normalcy. And it hasn't helped that almost all of these films have suffered sharp second weekend declines.

Despite the Delta variant on the upswing, such numbers have lent credence to the notion that day-and-date may be keeping people home. And still to come is Villenueve's Dune reboot set for Oct. 22.

But with Warner Bros.' retrenchment, no doubt the company is hoping to rebuild its relationship and trust with the talented folks upon which it relies, especially Nolan, who was so alienated by the day-and-date fiasco he purportedly contemplated exiting the studio after two decades, in order to go work for a rival.

Presumably fanboys will be happy with the move away from day-and-date. And now we know where they'll be come April 1, 2022 when the studio's untitled fourth Matrix installment from Lana Wachowski drops –– right at home in the comfort of their local movie theater.