Kilar spoke as part of AT&T’s second quarter earnings call in which he was asked about the company’s distribution strategy for Warner Bros. titles next year. WarnerMedia shook up the industry late last year with its move to have day-and-date HBO Max and theatrical releases for all of the studio’s 2021 slate, given that COVID lockdown conditions had shuttered theaters.
Next year, Warner Bros. looks to be moving back to a more traditional theatrical release strategy, albeit with a shortened 45-window for exclusive theatrical distribution, for many of the theatrical-bound titles on its slate. WarnerMedia itself will go through a transition next year with its planned spinoff from AT&T into a merger with Discovery, whose CEO David Zaslav will take the reins of the combined company should the transaction be approved by regulators.
Kilar said he doesn’t see the industry “going back to the way the world was in 2015, 2016 or 2017” with a long 75- to 90-day window for a title’s theatrical run before its first home video release. Warner Bros. has already said it will shift to a 45-day window for key tentpole movie titles.
Kilar pointed to Warner Bros. success with the genre film “Godzilla Vs. Kong,” which has raked in $460 million in box office revenue, as a sign that box office turnstiles are still a meaningful revenue generator for the studio.
“Clearly motion pictures matter and will continue to matter,” Kilar said. “They also matter at home in terms of the response we’ve gotten” from consumers who have signed up for HBO Max.
Kilar predicted that Hollywood will “see this industry continue to evolve and innovate in ways that work for not only for consumers and fans but also for our business partners,” he said during the conference call with Wall Street analysts.
The day-and-date move created waves in Hollywood’s creative community as it came as a surprise to filmmakers, some of whom were vocal about their anger.
WarnerMedia has said that distribution plans for the studio’s 2022 slate will be take on a film-by-film basis. Kilar’s comments on Thursday indicate the studio is leaning toward the 45-day window plan for movies that bow first in theaters while at the same time Warner Bros. will step up the volume of made-for-HBO Max originals. It’s unclear if any of Warner Bros.’ theatrical-bound slate will get the same kind of day-and-date theatrical and HBO Max treatment that the studio has done since December, when the long-delayed “Wonder Woman 1984” became the first Warner Bros. title to get a simultaneous dual release.