WEEKLY FILM INDUSTRY NEWS DIGEST, UPDATED SUNDAY DECEMBER 6TH
Warner Bros: Some Big 2021 News For Fans
We have big news to share. As many of you know, Wonder Woman 1984 is going to be released worldwide in theaters later this month. In the United States, we will also be making the movie available on HBO Max at no extra cost the same day that Wonder Woman 1984 premieres in theaters (for the first month of the film’s release).
We are announcing today that, in the United States, the entire anticipated 17-film 2021 Warner Bros. motion picture slate is going to be released throughout the coming year in theaters and on HBO Max the same day. That’s a Warner Bros. motion picture just about once every three weeks. Said another way, when we release The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho and Matrix 4 in theaters around the world in 2021, in the United States, we will also be releasing them the same day on HBO Max, at no extra cost, for the first month of each film’s release.
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar: HBOMax Theatrical Window Strategy Will Optimize Revenues
As Kilar explains here, he’s a big believer in the theatrical experience and firmly believes it will survive for decades to come...“We’re here for the long term, in terms of theatrical exhibition and obviously in investing heavily in motion pictures and also investing heavily in the marketing of those motion pictures"...
We believe that what we announced today is going to optimize the economics. And the reason why is twofold: The revenues that are generated by the box office, of course, and the other is the value of the consumption on HBO Max from existing subscribers and what we anticipate to be more subscribers coming into HBO Max who choose to do so because of the presence of these films. So, that’s why we think about the economics which is obviously different from the way historically it has been done in Hollywood, which was largely focused on theatrical for the first X number of weeks for a film’s life.
As to what the world looks like after 2021, I have no grand proclamations to make. Our focus, candidly, is on the here and now. We’re focused on getting through this pandemic like any business is, and we’re putting a lot of brain cells against what the right thing is to do to serve fans and to serve partners and to server ourselves. And all those things are important to do and that’s what our focus is, obviously that is what we announced today.
AMC Boss Adam Aron Slams Warner Bros HBO Max 2021 Theatrical Window Concept: Studio Sacrificing “Considerable” Profit
“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.
AMC’s news follows Cinemark’s response earlier today on the theatrical-HBO Max bombshell; the No. 3 exhibitor saying, “In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis. At this time, Warner Bros. has not provided any details for the hybrid distribution model of their 2021 films.”
‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Eyes Early Debut on Demand in U.K.
“Wonder Woman 1984” will play in cinemas in the U.K. for just one month from Dec. 16 before potentially getting a premium video-on-demand (PVOD) release on Sky…the move signifies unprecedented flexibility on the part of the country’s exhibitors.it’s believed that “Wonder Woman 1984” could drop on Sky as early as one month after the movie hits theaters, though this isn’t yet confirmed. The film could appear in various forms on Sky — for example, it may be rented via a standard transactional VOD deal through Sky Store, and then land on movie service Sky Cinema.
The Sky deal is a clear sign of the times in the U.K. and it’s worth noting that exhibitors are keen for the arrangement to be an exception made in extraordinary circumstances rather than the rule going forward. “What we’re doing on the basis of trying to help out the studios and our partners is to look at an emergency COVID window which is just the maximum amount of flexibility to get movies onto screens,” says a senior source close to U.K. discussions, who assures the “Wonder Woman 1984” scenario “isn’t setting up a precedent for the future, but acknowledging that we’re finding ways of working together.”The theatrical window in the U.K. is roughly 16 weeks. Movies played in cinemas for an average of 109 days (just over 15 weeks) in 2019, according to the UK Cinema Association. Many releases get shorter windows, while some enjoy longer runs.
WarnerMedia’s HBO Max Movie Move Sinks Exhibition Stocks
AMC Entertainment, the biggest and most financially strapped, was down 16%. Marcus lost 13%, Imax fell 8% and in-theater ad firm National CineMedia pulled back 5%. That was the opposite direction of the overall market, which ended higher.
HBO Max Plotting Local International Originals Based On DC Comics IP As WarnerMedia Steps Up Global Rollout Of Streaming Service
Casey Bloys, Chief Content Officer, HBO and HBO Max: “One of the big themes of bringing HBO Max together was breaking down the silos between HBO, Warner Bros and TBS and TNT. I’d say one other silo was international….One of the things that we’re going to do with Max is that all of our international productions will eventually live on Max and we’re going to do a much better job of coordinating between all of the folks programming in Europe, Latin America and Asia.”
Head of HBO Max Global Andy Forssell revealed that it would start rolling out the HBO Max service in Europe next year, building on its plans to launch mid-year in Latin America. “We will and need to be a global service. It’s an imperative to achieve scale,” Forssell said. “In the second half of 2021, you’ll see us start to upgrade some of the existing direct to consumer HBO services in Europe to HBO Max, double the content, a lot more capabilities, so by the end of the year both of those regions will be very active. The plan is to be in 190 countries, it’s just how fast can we do that roll-out.”
Charlize Theron Inks First-Look TV Deal With HBO, HBO Max
The actress and producer's Denver & Delilah banner will create and develop new projects for the premium cable network and the streaming service.The company, which previously was housed at Universal Content Productions, has produced multiple scripted series including David Fincher's Netflix drama Mindhunter, Netflix's short-lived Girlboss and the unscripted entry Hyperdrive…On the film side, Denver & Delilah counts Monster, Young Adult, Tully, A Private War, Atomic Blonde, Brain on Fire and Murder Mystery. More recently, the company produced Long Shot, Bombshell and Netflix's The Gold Guard.https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/charlize-theron-inks-first-look-tv-deal-with-hbo-hbo-max-exclusive
Movie Piracy Is Rising With Studios Skipping Theater Releases
Unlicensed downloads of Walt Disney Co.’s most-recent picture, “Mulan,” have outpaced those of other movies since its Sept. 4 U.S. debut on the Disney+ streaming service, according to TorrentFreak, a website that tracks pirating activity on public servers. Compared with “The Lion King,” which came out last year in theaters, “Mulan” saw about twice as many downloads in the days and weeks after its release.
When a traditional movie is released in theaters, thieves struggle to obtain high-quality recordings of it, often resorting to bootlegging with a hidden camcorder. With digital releases, pirates use technologies not available to most consumers to make perfect copies quickly.
Cineworld Stock Hits 5-Month High As U.K. Approves COVID-19 Vaccine
Cineworld has been among the exhibition giants hardest hit by the pandemic. The group was forced to close all its 127 U.K. sites during the first lockdown and recently decided to temporarily shut them all again, citing the lack of major new releases from the Hollywood studios. The company generates around 15 percent of its revenue in the U.K. and Ireland. The bulk of its earnings, around 73 percent, comes from the U.S. market.Cineworld's stock on Wednesday morning jumped to £0.64 ($0.86), it's highest level since early July. Cineworld shares hit an all-time low of £0.21 in March amid the first U.K. lockdown. The stock has been quietly climbing since late October, tracking positive announcements surrounding coronavirus vaccine trials. But Cineworld shares are still worth a fraction of their pre-pandemic levels when the stock was trading at around £2.20 ($2.95).
Digital To Grab 55% Of Total Ad Market This Year – Forecast
(US) TV ads have recovered to pre-pandemic levels and are performing better than any category outside of pure-play digital advertising which – led by Amazon, Facebook and Google — is eating everyone’s lunch. But Group M sees national TV returning to a flat or slightly declining longer-term trend after next year.Headwinds facing national TV advertising include an audience shift to connected TVs and non-ad-supported services from Netflix to Amazon Prime and Disney+. They reduce the potential reach of television advertising and make it harder to measure audiences. Layered on top of that is the focus by traditional television network owners from Disney to Comcast’s NBCUniversal to AT&T’s WarnerMedia on investing in subscription-based services or offering services with light ad loads. Going ever higher, on the other hand, is pure-play digital advertising, which will rise an estimated 9% this year, hitting 55% of total U.S. ad spend. Group M cited the unexpected pace of spending by digital’s small-business customer base, which accelerated e-commerce efforts as brick-and-mortar sales vanished. Large companies also prioritized e-commerce, spurring new digital spending despite concerns over measurement and brand safety on social media platforms.
Disney Merges 20th TV & Touchstone TV, ABC & Hulu Original Content, In Sweeping Reorg
With ABC Studios and ABC Signature merged earlier this year, Disney TV Studios has now gone down to two divisions, 20th TV and ABC Signature. The consolidation is expected to result in layoffs though there are no staff reductions today.Dana Walden, Chairman of Entertainment: “The changes we are announcing today are in service of three goals: rightsizing our organization, streamlining functions across our studios and original content teams, and strengthening our partnerships with the extraordinary creators who call Disney Television Studios their home.”This is the latest Disney TV division to undergo a reorganization as a result of the a major streamlining of Disney’s media and entertainment businesses, separating content creation from distribution with a focus on fueling Disney+ and Hulu, which was announced in October.
Hollywood at a Crossroads: Studios Face Tough Choices on How to Reach Audiences as Coronavirus Worsens
Release date delays, or the prospect of sending studio movies to streaming services, might seem obvious or expected at this point in the pandemic. Yet traditional Hollywood players are still struggling to navigate a new movie distribution landscape, one with contours that are being charted, smudged out, and redrawn again on the fly…industry experts admit it’s unrealistic to assume the coronavirus crisis will drastically improve by January, even with promising potential vaccines having wrapped up their clinical trials.That means people won’t be returning to the movies anytime soon. As a result, executives have the unenviable job of making massive decisions, most of which are rooted in financials, that may have lingering reverberations.
How each studio is adapting remains unique to individual companies, but it’s all pointing toward a future with unpredictable moves looming. In recent weeks, studio chiefs across Hollywood have been forced to take another look at rough cuts or nearly finished versions of upcoming releases through a new, singular lens: Does this warrant a traditional theatrical release?According to sources familiar with discussions, “Judas and the Black Messiah,” a biographical drama starring Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield; Denzel Washington’s crime thriller “The Little Things;” and the “Tom and Jerry” remake could all see a hybrid HBO Max/ theatrical fate similar to “Wonder Woman 1984.”Deadline recently reported that Emma Stone’s “Cruella,” “Pinocchio” and “Peter Pan and Wendy” could skip theaters in favor of Disney Plus debuts.
But more pressing: there’s been little chatter about two movies from the Disney-owned 20th Century Studios — the YA musical “Everyone’s Talking About Jamie,” slated for Feb. 26 and Matthew Vaughn’s “The King’s Man,” set a couple of weeks earlier on Feb. 12. Could a Hulu or Disney Plus bow be in their futures?Siphoning off movies to the Netflixes, Amazon Primes and Hulus of the world would appear to be the obvious temporary solution, but insiders say it’s more complicated than flipping a switch.
Studios have to take a look at contracts that may promise some kind of theatrical release, as well as renegotiate backend deal with financial partners and talent before making any announcements in the press. In the case of “Wonder Woman 1984,” insiders say that Gadot and director Patty Jenkins received generous backend deals after agreeing to send the film to HBO Max. The pair may never have hit the necessary milestones to trigger that money in the current environment…
Studios executives keep talking hopefully about a return to “normal” they predict may come in the summer when a vaccine is widely available. However, few think that the industry will be able to quickly shake off the financial devastation of the past few months. Moreover, how movies open in theaters has changed perhaps irrevocably. That reality is the new world order that studios will be operating in when the pandemic finally ends.
Starz Launches OTT Service Lionsgate Play In India
Global streamer Starz has launched independent direct-to-consumer OTT app Lionsgate Play in India, which will make Hollywood content available locally in multiple Indian languages.The service enters a booming streaming market where the likes of Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon and Netflix have been making waves in 2020, particularly as the country’s cinemas remain closed, with the streamers buying up premium film content to debut directly online.Lionsgate Play will cost INR 699 ($9.50) for a year and INR 99 ($1.34) per month, a rate that largely undercuts its competitors. The app will be available across Google Play store, Apple app store and Amazon firestick.
‘The Croods’ Sequel’s Holiday Haul Proves Moviegoing Will Rebound, National CineMedia Boss Tom Lesinski Says: “Not If, But When”
National CineMedia controls about 70% of the in-theater advertising business, working with a range of top exhibitors as well as media buyers and brands.“Different studios will be testing different windows and different availability,” he said. But he remains “confident that consumers will come back to the theaters as soon as there’s a real release schedule,” beginning with Bond.Speaking of windows, Lesinski said recent deals between Universal and Cinemark and AMC. “This is all very, very new and there’s nothing in the market to suggest that anyone can forecast the impact,” he said.
‘Horizon Line’: STX Thriller Headed To Epix Following Home Entertainment WindowSTX’s Mikael Marcimain thriller Horizon Line will debut on Epix in 2021 following the pic’s transactional platform launch on January 12. The movie will be available then for purchase ($14.99) or rental ($6.99). STX Films chairman Fogelson said, “Demand for quality entertainment is at an all-time high, and we’re thrilled to be able to work with such strong partners as Epix. While we all look forward to resuming our business as theatrical suppliers, it’s exciting to be bringing Horizon Line to as large an audience as possible.”
The announcement follows STX’s previous announcement that the Gerard Butler thriller Greenland, which has opened No. 1 in 27 overseas markets, will be available to U.S. audiences on all Premium VOD platforms beginning December 18 before becoming available on HBO and to stream on HBO Max in 2021. The studio also recently announced the thriller Songbird, produced by Michael Bay, will be available beginning December 11 as a PVOD release.STX reports that Horizon Line‘s presales and downstream TV deals make the pic profitable amid the current challenging market conditions.
UK’s National Theatre Launches Streaming Service
Bespoke platform National Theatre at Home will be available worldwide and launches with productions including Phèdre with Helen Mirren, Othello with Adrian Lester and the Young Vic’s Yerma with Billie Piper. New titles from the archive will be added each month, including previous National Theatre Live broadcasts as well as plays filmed for the NT’s Archive that will be released online for the first time…Viewers can subscribe monthly or annually for £9.98 per month or £99.98 per year. They can also rent shows one-off for a 72-hour window for £5.99 for archive and £7.99 for NT Live. The platform will be available for Apple, Google, Roku TV and Amazon Fire TV services.
‘The Mandalorian’ Becomes First Disney Plus Show to Make Nielsen’s Streaming Top 10 List
The “Star Wars” series jets in at number three for the week of Oct. 26, placing only behind “The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Office” on Netflix. According to Nielsen, the show’s 9 episodes (including its Oct. 30 season 2 premiere) were watched for a total of over 1 billion minutes during that week. Expect “Mandalorian” to remain in the top 10 over the next few weeks as more of its second season is taken into account.
‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Avengers,’ ‘Stranger Things’ Are Top Entertainment Franchises, Survey Finds
Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian,” Marvel’s “Avengers” films and Netflix’s “Stranger Things” are the top power franchises — considered the boldest and most thought-provoking — according to a new survey from the National Research Group….The results were analyzed to determine which franchises are most likely to withstand the test of time and continue to evolve and reinvent themselves to remain relevant to their global fans….“Consumers are ready for entertainment franchises to lean into important cultural conversations and create a new reality — one in which optimism, diversity and curiosity unite rather than divide us,” says Jon Penn, CEO of NRG.
Netflix Will Start Declaring U.K. Revenues to Local Tax AuthoritiesNetflix is set to begin declaring its U.K. revenues to local tax authorities in the new year — a move that follows similar initiatives in Western Europe in recent weeks. Until now, the streaming giant had channelled its revenues through the Netherlands, a lower tax jurisdiction and the site of its European headquarters.The SVOD confirmed to The Guardian, which first reported the news, that it will make the move in 2021. “As Netflix continues to grow in the U.K. and in other international markets, we want our corporate structure to reflect this footprint,” said a company spokesman. “So from next year, revenue generated in the U.K. will be recognized in the U.K., and we will pay corporate income tax accordingly.”