Adam Aron, CEO and president of the AMC Entertainment theater chain, is opposing Warner Bros.’ plan to simultaneously release all of its 2021 movies on HBO Max and in theaters.
Aron noted Thursday afternoon that he had backed Warner’s previous strategy, unveiled on Nov. 22, to roll out “Wonder Woman 1984” on Christmas Day on both HBO Max and in theaters, but expressed strong reservations about following the same course for the entire 2021 slate.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Aron said his chain, which operates 659 locations as the largest U.S. exhibitor, is being asked to subsidize HBO Max.
“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.”
He noted that he’s hopeful that the imminent arrival of COVID-19 vaccines will revive the moviegoing business: “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.”
Prior to the Warner Bros. announcement, AMC Entertainment Holdings filed to raise up to $844 million by selling stock as the exhibitor struggles to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The S-3 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said AMC plans to sell up to 200 million shares at an estimated offering price of $4.22 per share, based on trading Nov. 30. Shares plunged 69 cents to $3.63 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.