The coronavirus pandemic and "rapid changes in consumer behavior" have propelled WarnerMedia to "rethink (its) theatrical model", according to CEO John Stankey.
Scooby-Doo as the new normal
CEO of AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, which owns the Warner Bros. film studio, is not optimistic about the outlook for theatrical moviegoing. At AT&T's earnings call he stressed that there is not "going to be a snap-back" recovery.
- "We’re evaluating our product distribution strategy, relooking at volumes and the required support levels we need in a down economy," said WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey. "We’re rethinking our theatrical model and looking for ways to accelerate efforts that are consistent with the rapid changes in consumer behavior from the pandemic."
John Stankey brought up Scoob, the upcoming Scooby-Doo movie, as an example of what he calls "the new normal". The animated movie was planned for theatrical release but will instead debut as a $20 rental ($25 to buy) on VOD services like Amazon, Apple TV (iTunes), FandangoNow and Vudu on May 15. It will later be made available on the company's new subscription streaming service HBO Max.
"Exhibitors will not forget this"
Universal was the first studio to make in-cinema movies available for streaming and the first studio release a new movie, Trolls World Tour, simultaneously at home and in cinema.
In a Hollywood Reporter interview with the chief of National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), John Fithian, warned that "exhibitors will not forget this", referring to Universal's decision to release Trolls World Tour in the way that it did.
With Scoob, Warner is following in the footsteps of Universal. The coronavirus pandemic has also prompted Disney to release Pixar's Onward early on Disney+ and cancel the theatrical release of Artemis Fowl, saying that "more might follow".
Disney, Warner, Universal and other Hollywood studios have on the other hand postponed most major movies to make sure that they will still be available in theaters. However, with recent or upcoming launches of direct-to-consumer services like Disney+, HBO Max (Warner Media) and Peacock (NBCUniversal), we are starting to see a shift in Hollywood studios' priorities. Yesterday, Netflix also reported a record 15.7 million subscriber increase for Q1 2020.
Also read: Vudu acquired by NBCUniversal's Fandango
The WarnerMedia CEO emphasized that its upcoming streaming service HBO Max, which will launch on May 27, is key going forward.
- "We were right about the streaming model and HBO Max," he said "Streaming that appeals to all demographics is in high demand."
- Source: Hollywood Reporter and WarnerMedia via Variety, Deadline