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The movie industry is recognizing that the pandemic will alter their business in 2021 even as vaccines begin to spread. Warner Brothers says every movie released next year - every single one - will be available to stream on HBO Max the same day the movie shows up in theaters. It's a workaround for theaters that closed or had to reduce their capacity. As NPR's Andrew Limbong reports, this is going to cause long-term effects in Hollywood.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNE")
TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: (As Paul) There's something awakening in my mind. And I can't control it.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: The plan works like this - the same day "Dune" comes out in theaters, you'll be able to watch it on HBO Max for a month. After that, the movie will get pulled from the service while it continues to show in theaters. Other Warner Brothers movie slated for 2021 include the "Space Jam" sequel, "A New Legacy," "The Sopranos" prequel, "The Many Saints Of Newark," and the movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In The Heights."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IN THE HEIGHTS")
ANTHONY RAMOS: (As Usnavi, rapping) And you probably never heard my name. Reports of my fame are greatly exaggerated.
LIMBONG: These are the types of movies theaters subsist on. In a statement, Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Entertainment, said Warner is sacrificing profitability to, quote, "subsidize its HBO Max startup." Warner Brothers CEO Ann Sarnoff framed it as a win-win, saying in a statement that no one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. But we had to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021. Warner Brothers says this setup is supposed to last a year. But Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Karie Bible doesn't see that happening, especially as other studios, like Disney, up their streaming game.
KARIE BIBLE: I think now that Warner Brothers is going this way, I think it's just a matter of the dominoes keep falling down.
LIMBONG: Bible says that beyond the beleaguered status of movie theaters, there's also a question of transparency. Box offices report how much money a movie makes. And you can glean from those numbers how many people saw that movie. Streaming services are much tighter lipped.
BIBLE: There are stockholders. There are agents. There are performers. There are managers. There's all sorts of people for whom those numbers are important to their bottom line and, really, their currency.
LIMBONG: So it's not just that the game is changing, but the scoreboard is, too.
Andrew Limbong, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF HUMBLEBEE'S "RECENSEO")
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