Even though we’re on the verge of a coronavirus vaccine being released, the early months of 2021 still aren’t looking great for movie theaters getting back to normal operations. Some movies originally intended for release early next year have already shifted to later in the year, such as Ghostbusters: Afterlife and the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, but studios are considering sending some releases from the first quarter of 2021 to streaming, such as the live-action/animated hybrid Tom and Jerry and the previously delayed Kingsman franchise prequel The King’s Man.
Variety has a whole story on the state of theatrical distribution as the coronavirus pandemic continues to get worse in the United States, forcing the tightening of restrictions in some states and continuing to keep people away from movie theaters. Even the Thanksgiving weekend box office was dismal despite the sea of travelers ignoring advice from the Center for Disease Control. And for anyone who though the first months of 2021 would see things getting a little bit back to normal for movie theaters, think again.
In the wake of Wonder Woman 1984 striking a deal that will see it released simultaneously in theaters and streaming on HBO Max starting on Christmas Day, it sounds like Warner Bros. Pictures is considering doing the same with a few of their upcoming theatrical releases for early 2021.
First up, there’s the thriller The Little Things starring Denzel Washington. The movie from The Blind Side and The Founder director John Lee Hancock is currently slated for release in theaters on January 29, 2021. Then we have Tom and Jerry slated for March 5, 2021, and the biographical drama Judas and the Black Messiah with Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, which currently doesn’t have a set release date. All three of those movies are being considered for potential hybrid releases in theaters and on HBO Max.
Just last weekend we heard Godzilla vs Kong is in the mix to spark a potential streaming deal at HBO Max, a much bigger movie than the aforementioned releases that Warner Bros. Pictures is considering for streaming. Apparently the studio also considered doing the same with the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie, but they’ve decided to hold it back for a full-on theatrical release without a streaming option to go along with it.
Warner Bros. Pictures isn’t the only studio considering more streaming releases either. Disney’s 20th Century Studios could also have two of their releases end up on streaming. The Kingsman: The Secret Service prequel The King’s Man has a theatrical date of February 12, 2020, and the coming-of-age drag queen musical Everyone’s Talking About Jamie is set for release on February 26, 2021. Apparently there are discussions about sending those movies to streaming, with the musical likely heading to Disney+ and The King’s Man potentially arriving on Hulu.
It might seem like a no-brainer to release some of these movies on streaming instead of theaters, but studios have a lot of things to consider outside of box office. Contracts with directors, major movies stars or producers where box office can impact bonuses can make shifting a release to streaming more complicated. Plus, studios have international theatrical deals that they’re contractually beholden to, and some filmmakers aren’t keen on pushing back the release in the United States to align with the global release, mostly due to piracy concerns and the need to have two separate marketing campaigns at two different times. But these are unprecedented times, and concessions will be made, but we’ll have to wait and see how these potential streaming deals play out.
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