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WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar says that the company has no plans to abandon theatrical exhibition, and that some “epic” films will get exclusive theatrical windows even as others debut day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max.
“I believe in the theatrical experience, we believe in the theatrical experience,” Kilar said at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit Thursday. “You should expect us to lean into the theatrical experience for decades and decades to come.”
Kilar added that “the only thing you can count on, aside from our commitment to theatrical, because it is important to customers, is the belief that windows will change.”
To that end, Kilar suggested that the company’s current strategy of debuting films on HBO Max the same day they debut in theaters, won’t go away … even though the company will return to a strategy that gives theaters an exclusive window.
“There will be stories so epic in scope, that an exclusive theatrical release makes sense,” Kilar said, adding that there would also be “other stories that may hew much closer to what you are seeing available on HBO Max the same day they debut in exhibition.
“I would argue we have done more for theaters in 2021 than anyone else so far,” he added, noting that the company has released a number of major films in theaters, including Mortal Kombat and Godzilla vs. Kong, even as they also debut on HBO Max.
Kilar declined to say how much the forthcoming ad-supported version of HBO Max would cost, but added that “we ultimately want to price it in a way where we are economically indifferent” as to whether consumers choose the ad-free or ad-supported tier. “I think your conclusion when you see it will be, ‘Wow, this is elegant,'” he added.
Kilar also suggested that 2022 would be a critical year for HBO Max, with a much more global reach, the ad-supported option, and a flurry of significant premieres.
“It’s going to be a bonkers year based on what we already have in production,” Kilar said.
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