The Year Without a Summer

The Year Without a Summer

The cataclysmic eruption of Mount Tambora in 1816 caused a devasting climate shift resulting in widespread crop failure, starvation, and bread riots. It was called the Year Without a Summer.

The theaters are having their own version of that next year.

As I reported yesterday, Warner Media has announced that its entire production slate of films will be dropped on to HBOmax this year.  Denzel Washington’s The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs Kon, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In the Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho, Matrix 4, and of course, Dune. 

This isn’t just the nine-figure budget tentpole films, this is the whole catalog for 2020 and 2021. This is everything.  Warner Media is leaving the theaters with NOTHING.

“Following the one-month HBOmax access period domestically, each film will leave the platform and continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories, with all customary distribution windows applying to the title.”

In case you are wondering what, that bullshit means; Warner locked itself into a bad deal. Before they decided to get into streaming themselves, they sold off all of their streaming rights to their future catalog a few years ago.  They won’t be able to keep any of their new films until those contracts expire in 2024.  Good play guys!

So why bother, you ask?  Because they have got to get eyeballs on HBOmax now!  This service was meant to compete with Netflix and Disney+ but the truth is they are competing with CBS All-Access and PlayStation Vue.  They are a very, very distant third, I mean their horse has barely waddled out of the starting gate, while the front runners are rounding the turn.

In their statement Warner claimed that this is just a one-time experiment and that they will be just tickled pink to go back to theatrical exhibition in 2022.  

This is called, “lying.”

They know perfectly well that this is the death stroke.  Short of a major government bailout, (and they don’t have the bribe money), the theater chains can’t survive this.  They were over-specialized to begin with and the market has shifted too drastically, too fast. 

The one thing that Warner Media isn’t lying about is that this is a one-time thing. Warner is only doing this once because they are getting out of the movie business.  

The risk to reward was always too high for anyone’s comfort.  The budgets were backbreaking, and they had to pay spoiled and demanding movie stars a ton of money.  At their height, casting Robert Downey and Johnny Depp were strategic decisions that had to be approved by the board of directors.

Now, the studios are all shifting into streaming.  HBOmax had a very bad stumble out of the gate.  They had too many specialized streaming services (Crunchy Roll, DC Universe) when the market trend was clearly leaning hard towards aggregation.   My initial review of HBOmax was more positive than I expected it to be but that didn’t stop me from canceling the service.  

Mega-budget blockbusters don’t generate enough money to justify making them. But so long as you have them and can’t recoup your investment in theaters, you are better off using them to generate subscriptions as “a one-time experiment.”

Which means that this is going to be a Year Without a Summer for the theater chains.

Although, this could also mean a major opportunity this year for smaller production companies.

Regardless, my prediction for the cinema mega-plex is unchanged.  They were built to serve a market that no longer exists.

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Comments (10)

  • Corey Ashcraft Reply

    As someone who went to the theatre with family every Friday and Saturday night, Warner Media’s decision is shocking. I mean it completely realigns the viewing patterns of the public. Plus, beyond the movie theatres, it is the death of Blu Ray buying. Why would I buy a 4k disk of movie at $34.99 when I can see it for free o HBOMax? Physical disk buying has just been regulated to a niche market that only does gangbusters around Black Friday.


    December 4, 2020 at 5:39 pm
    • DJ Reply

      “Why would I buy a 4k disk of movie at $34.99 when I can see it for free on HBOMax? Physical disk buying has just been regulated to a niche market that only does gangbusters around Black Friday.”
      I can’t argue with that — those niche purchasers who still purchase music in hard digital form (CD) do so for only a few reasons: (1) archive copies, (2) they’ve always done so, and they just like having something physical there, or (3) liner notes.
      The reasons that a person (like me) would purchase a digital film would be things like being able to turn on commentary. If they offered that on streaming…

      December 4, 2020 at 7:25 pm
  • The Dark Herald Reply

    Once anything hits the internet it’s FREE.

    I suppose that’s the real reason Warner doesn’t seem to mind the one month release window on HBOmax.

    December 4, 2020 at 10:26 pm
  • Seeker Reply

    Aw, they are failing? Too bad, I was just looking so forward to more of their delightful movies like Unpregnant. Imagine being so hyper-lefty that one of your opening movies is literally an abortion road trip buddy movie starring a catholic girl. Confidence level 10000 right there.

    As far as their movie slate goes, the only one people were looking forward to was Dune. Apparently the script is decent, but it also gender and race bends everywhere and won’t get a similar quality sequel now (not that it would succeed as it needed in theaters anyways), so it doesn’t really matter. WW84 didn’t test screen well, and it would have probably flopped with all the rest of their offerings. The Matrix 4 is about escaping the Matrix as a trans allegory by the “sisters”, so wouldn’t have appealed to the normie theatergoers anyways. And then there’s a bunch of reboots, political propaganda, and sequels that nobody cares about.

    It can all burn in other words.

    December 5, 2020 at 3:51 pm
  • Corey Ashcraft Reply

    The only movies in this slate that I was interested in are Mortal Kombat and Godzilla VS Kong. Nothing else seems remotely pulp enough to have a long lasting appeal.

    December 5, 2020 at 6:17 pm
  • Ivan Poland Reply

    Adapt or die. Most of the mall cinemas will be purged due to high rent, unless they can renegotiate their contracts, sorta an adaptation, but those that are not in a mall/shopping center could convert back to the “cheap” theater mode. Back before Obama’s ADA nazis closed the “$1 theaters” for their inability to pay for ADA upgrades for the deaf and blind, people would wait until a film made it to the $1 theater and went then. It takes an out of the box thinking but it could be done. For example, advertise that the first 6 Star Wars films will be shone, one film a week for 6 weeks. Charge $5 a head, put in the required Coof rules and open up. Naive? Maybe, but if done right, profitable.

    December 5, 2020 at 6:48 pm
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      Honestly, I don’t think the multi-screen theaters are going to survive even as $1show form if the major studios get out making movies completely.

      The cheap seat business model worked by running films that were at the tail end of their FIRST theatrical runs. By the end of this weekend, the Big Five will have committed themselves completely to streaming.

      I know this is shifting people’s paradigms without a clutch but I don’t think the big studios are going to make ANY more movies. It’s all going to be streaming content.

      There will be some single-screen theaters that survive as a boutique market but they are going to be doing the kind of business that drive-ins do.

      December 6, 2020 at 1:29 am
      • Corey Ashcraft Reply

        I Think your right. Here in St. George, we used to have 2 budget theatres. One was closed roughly 5 years ago due to age. And the other is now permanently closed as a COVID victim. The two remaining theatres have been scrapping buy showing legacy movies from 40-20 years ago. A lot of good movies to show but they aren’t new and often times they are movies everyone has already seen. How long can the theatres last if there are no first run blockbusters to show? I guess we will find out.

        December 6, 2020 at 4:10 am
  • Bonesaw Reply

    In my nearest city we have the oldest working cinema in England.
    It’s been restored and renovated, but has been showing movies since 1909. They’re closed now and have fired all their staff.

    I don’t know how they could continue operating with social distancing rules as the two rooms are very small, and removing more seats will, by necessity, make ticket prices prohibitive.
    They survived for years by offering a mix of new movies and loads of classics.
    I’m happy for the big cinema chains to fold as they were soul-less, it id like small places like The Electric Cinema to survive somehow, but I have no idea how they can do it…

    December 6, 2020 at 7:00 am
  • Metzengerstein Reply

    In rural Utah, we have a drive-in that’s taken to showing old movies, and they have been able to keep going throughout the whole COVID thing. The folks that own it also own a theatre downtown and one in the town over.
    Those have either shut down or are in the process of shutting down. A lot of older movies are hard to find on the internet, so that might be a niche movie theatres could fill going forward, but I doubt it would be all that lucrative a business strategy.

    December 8, 2020 at 11:44 pm

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