Sony’s Morbius and Disney’s “Turning Red” are just two of the latest high-profile movies to shuffle their release strategies due to the surging omicron variant — with “Morbius” going to January and “Turning Red” off the theatrical release calendar entirely in favor of straight-to-Disney+ streaming.
The rise in COVID cases is putting pressure on studios looking to either stay the course or rethink their plans. One major tentpole on the horizon is Warner Bros.’ “The Batman,” from director Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson. Right now, it’s scheduled to open in theaters on March 4 — after already being pushed twice, first from July 2021 to October, and then to March of this year — before streaming on HBO Max 45 days later on April 19. Will that date hold? WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar recently spoke to Puck News (via Variety) about the release plan. While the studio is keeping a close watch on COVID, right now, its players are feeling optimistic about the date.
“We’re certainly paying attention to everything going on with omicron,” Kilar said. “We feel good about the date right now. We’re gonna watch it day by day.”
Kilar also spoke about WarnerMedia’s controversial decision to drop Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 slate onto HBO Max day-and-date alongside theatrical. That decision affected films like “The Matrix Resurrections” and “Dune,” but HBO Max ended 2021 with 73.8 million subscribers, which was ahead of projections.
“It’s hard to argue; we made the right decision,” Kilar told Puck News. “We served the customers, the fans. We partnered with theaters; we were the only ones to provide 18 theatrical features with full marketing spends and full global theatrical releases. And we worked with our [talent] participants to make sure they were taken care of.”
That day-and-date plan won’t apply to the majority of Warner Bros.’ 2022 slate, with the 45-day window now expected for most titles.
“Think about when movies would show up on HBO, which is eight to nine months after theatrical premiere. ‘The Batman’ is going to show up on day 46 on HBO Max,” Kilar recently told Vox in an interview. “That is a huge change from where things were in 2018, 2017, 2016.”
Kilar added that the 45-day window will extend to Warner Media titles such as “Black Adam,” “The Flash,” and Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis biopic, among others. “I feel really, really good knowing that ‘The Batman,’ and ‘Black Adam,’ and ‘The Flash,’ and ‘Elvis,’ and a whole host of other movies, are literally going to be showing up on day 46 on HBO Max in a variety of territories all over the world,” Kilar said. “That is a very, very big change that I don’t think people appreciate, and I feel really good about it.”