AMC Entertainment gave Warner Bros. an inch with Wonder Woman 1984, but they won’t give the studio a mile for sixteen movies throughout 2021.
Despite having backed Warner Bros’ decision to release WW84 simultaneously in theaters and through its streamer HBO Max on Christmas Day, the #1 Movie Theater chain in North America is not accepting the studio’s latest announcement to follow the same release model for their entire 2021 feature film slate.
Adam Aron, CEO and president of the AMC Entertainment theater chain, said in a statement:
- “These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height. However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theatre business is expected to recover.”
Aron equates the move as Warner requiring theaters to subsidize the studio’s upstart streaming service. He’s not wrong.
- “Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business. We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject.”
Encouraged by the impending global rollout of multiple vaccines for COVID-19, Aron added, “…it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.”
Aron’s wording is interesting, and certainly both careful and precise.
He never says that AMC will boycott WB titles. He said that AMC will “aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business,” adding that they’ve already begun a dialogue with Warner to that end.
A solution to this impasse is hard to conceive, especially given that it’s difficult to imagine WB completely backtracking on the HBO Max commitment for 2021 (which they’ve said won’t extend into 2022 and beyond, but who can trust that at this point?).
But the same was true this past spring when Universal Studios made a commitment to VOD that angered AMC, which led to a ban of all Universal titles (and included major franchises like Jurassic World, Fast & Furious, and more). And yet by late summer, Aron had struck a revenue-sharing deal with Universal that ended the boycott proved mutually beneficial for both parties; the Cinemark theater chain would go on to copy the deal.
Expect AMC and Warner to strike something similar — especially if the WB’s favorite auteur partner Christopher Nolan has anything to say about it.
UPDATE: Cinemark, the nation’s #3 theater chain, was more demure in its response to the WB/HBO Max bombshell, saying simply that they will continue to assess what movie titles they will carry (or not) on an individual basis. (This may simply be a posture that allows AMC to take the lead in the public fight, but possibly discussing tactics and goals with each other behind-the-scenes.)