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Warner Bros confirms 2020 films will debut in cinemas but be available to stream sooner

HBO Max / WarnerMedia
(Image credit: HBO Max / WarnerMedia)

Warner Bros has signed a multi-year deal with Cineworld (parent company of Regal cinemas) to return to giving full theatrical releases to new films from 2022, but with a shortened gap before digital release, Deadline reports. 

For the remainder of this year, the studio will continue trialling a new business model that allows for simultaneous release in cinemas and online, courtesy of its HBO Max streaming service, to compensate for the loss of box office revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Currently, films like Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat and Wonder Woman 1984 will debut both at Regal Cinemas in the US (where open) and on HBO Max, staying on the platform for one month after release. 

Starting next year, Warner Bros theatrical films will be released solely on Regal screens, but with only a 45-day window of exclusivity, dramatically shortening the gap between theatrical and streaming release.

Over in the UK, Cineworld will get an exclusive theatrical showing of 31 days, extended to 45 days for films that meet a set opening box office threshold. 

The precedent for shortening theatrical release has already been set by other major studios hoping to get the best of both worlds while giving customers more choice, with Paramount recently announcing similar 45-day windows for its big-budget films or a 30-day window for smaller titles. Universal has also said blockbusters will head to streaming platforms after 31 days, shortening to 17 days if they gross less than $450 million domestically.

These deals mark a radical shift from the traditional theatrical window of 70 to 90 days and further indicate that the relationship between theatrical and digital cinema will be very different post-pandemic. But for now, cinemas will still be the place to be to see new films first.

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