AMC Social Distancing Protocols

The entire theatrical landscape shifted yesterday when Warner Bros. announced that it would be releasing its entire 2021 theatrical slate day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max. The film world was left reeling by this game-changing decision, most of all theater exhibitors — many of whom received a heads up only an hour before Warner Bros. broke the news. Smaller exhibitors learned only seven minutes prior to the bombshell.

So naturally, they’re all a little miffed by the decision, which many are saying could spell the end of movie theaters. Now AMC Theatres, the largest theater exhibition chain in the U.S., has issued a response slamming WarnerMedia and its intent to “sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division.”

AMC Theatres is not mincing words when it comes to their displeasure with Warner Bros.’ bombshell decision topremiere its entire 2021 slate of films theatrically and simultaneously on HBO Max.

In a statement to Deadline, AMC chief Adam Aron said, “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 had begrudgingly allowed an exception for Warner Bros.’ to commit to a day-and-date release for Wonder Woman 1984, but intends to fight hard when it comes to the terms of the studio’s 2021 theatrical movies and will have “an immediate and urgent dialogue” with Warner leadership.

See AMC’s full statement below:

“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.

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.

As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand. So, 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.”

AMC’s news follows Cinemark’s response Thursday, in which the No. 3 exhibitor said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Cineworld Group, the owner of the second largest exhibitor Regal Cinemas, was a little more muted in its reaction, believing Warners “will look to reach an agreement about the proper window and terms that will work for both sides.” The statement from Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger reads:

“Cineworld was aware of WB’s plan to release Wonder Woman directly to its streaming service, which has been announced at a time when our cinemas remain closed in the US (Regal) and UK (Cineworld). We are very encouraged by the giant steps achieved recently with regards to the COVID-19 vaccination process, which is expected to be put in place earlier than previously anticipated. This will generate significant relief for our industry and enable our cinemas to make a great comeback. We believe that at such a time WB will look to reach an agreement about the proper window and terms that will work for both sides. Big movies are made for the big screen and we cannot wait to reopen our cinemas in Q1 in order to offer our customers, as always, the best place to watch a movie.”

Deadline notes that many exhibitors, large and small see this move by Warner Bros. as “doomsday” for the theatrical experience — an issue /Film discussed on our recent podcast. WarnerMedia has rattled a lot of cages, blindsiding not only exhibitors, but producing partners — Godzilla vs. Kong producer Legendary was reportedly not aware of the Warner Bros. decision until the news broke Thursday. And there’s the question of whether filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, who is famously committed to the theatrical experience, will be willing to work with Warner Bros. as much as before. It’s uncharted territory from here on out, but it’s clear major theater chains won’t be going down without a fight.

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