HBO Max same-day releases won’t continue in 2022

AT&T’s bold plan to release 2021 Warner Bros. films in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously was always likely going to be a one-year thing and now it’s confirmed.

Cineworld, parent company of Regal Cinemas, has signed a multi-year agreement with Warner Bros. to show its films in Cineworld movie theaters in the U.S. Starting in 2022, Warner Bros. theatrical releases will carry a 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity.

“We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros. This agreement shows the studio’s commitment to the theatrical business and we see this agreement as an important milestone in our 100-year relationship with Warner Bros.,” said Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger in a statement.

So, the same-day release experiment for Warner Bros. and HBO Max will end after this year. However, the new agreement with Cineworld signals shorter theatrical windows for Warner Bros. that will be on par with what Paramount is doing with Paramount+, the newly rebranded and expanded CBS All Access.

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HBO Max got a boost from the Christmas Day release of “Wonder Woman 1984” and this year it’s going to get 17 or 18 more Warner Bros. films – ranging from blockbusters like “The Matrix 4” and “The Suicide Squad” to possibly smaller films like “The Little Things.” AT&T CEO John Stankey warned during his company’s most recent earnings call that not all of films will spur the same kind of subscriber growth.

“We’re going to see a little bit of spikiness,” he said. “We’re not going to see the kind of subscriber spikes that maybe we saw in December and early January every time we put a movie out. That really isn’t the design or intent of the plan.”

AT&T now expects between 120 million and 150 million worldwide HBO Max and HBO subscribers by the end of 2025, up from the 75-90 million projected in October 2019. In the nearer term, AT&T expects to end 2021 with between 67 million and 70 million subscribers worldwide, up from about 61 million at the end of 2020.