It appears the age of theaters will be slightly prolonged. WarnerMedia and Cineworld — the parent company of the second-largest theater chain in the U.S., Regal Theaters — have announced that they’ve struck a deal for theatrical releases that will see Warner Bros. films in 2022 come to Regal’s theaters exclusively for 45 days before being made available elsewhere, such as for HBO Max. This will put an end to the company’s current practice of releasing all its films day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max, and it will put the streamer more in line with its competitors that are mostly still dropping films in theaters first with shortened release windows after.
Regal Theaters in the U.S. have been closed for six months, but Cineworld has announced its plans to reopen them on April 2 with Godzilla vs. Kong headlining. That’s a few days after the film will hit other theaters and HBO Max, of course, but Cineworld is eyeing a staggered opening and is only opening a few theaters on April 2 anyway. The bigger opening will follow on April 16, closely tied to the release of New Line’s Mortal Kombat reboot, connecting Regal’s success to that of these WarnerMedia-owned franchises. In the U.K., where HBO Max isn’t currently available, Cineworld and WarnerMedia have a slightly different deal in which films will have a theatrical window of 31 days before hitting PVOD, and if a film makes a certain amount of money that window will be extended to 45 days.
Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger provided the following statement:
We have long awaited this moment when we can welcome audiences back to our Regal theaters and restore our essential role within the communities we serve. With the health and safety of our customers, staff, and communities as our top priority, we continue to take all the necessary precautions and abide by our CinemaSafe guidelines to confidently provide a safe and comfortable experience. With capacity restrictions expanding to 50% or more across most U.S. states, we will be able to operate profitably in our biggest markets. We will also be monitoring developments closely in the UK and across Europe as we set to gradually reopen across the world in line with local government guidance.
There was hope among some that despite WarnerMedia claiming the day-and-date releases were only for 2021 that the success of the practice would lead to it becoming permanent, but that is obviously not happening. While the company hasn’t inked any public deals with AMC, the biggest theater chain in the U.S., the two seem to have made peace somehow, and we’ll most likely hear about a deal between them as well eventually.