After streaming movies in 2021, Warner Bros. returns to exclusive theatrical releases with “The Batman”

The film, expected to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, has wider implications for the studio behind it, kicking off what could be a blockbuster year as AT&T plans to to part ways with WarnerMedia and as new management, Discovery, prepares to take over.
Based on the DC Comics franchise, this latest version of the Dark Knight, which hits theaters Friday, stars Robert Pattinson, capturing the character early in his crime-fighting career.
Delayed by the pandemic, “The Batman” will lead a new wave of DC titles from Warner Bros. — which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia — including “Black Adam,” “The Flash,” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the sequel to “Aquaman,” which grossed over $1.1 billion in the world after its release in 2018.

“The return of this immensely popular character to the big screen couldn’t come at a more perfect time,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at, told CNN Business. “Batman is the kind of pop culture icon that earns serious fan attention and great curiosity from casual viewers every time the character is rebooted.”

“The Batman” and Warner Bros. enter theaters

The buzz around “The Batman,” not to mention the brand loyalty attached to films featuring the character, could see it cross the $1 billion mark at the global box office. People who earn billions of dollars have become an endangered species during the pandemic. DC rival Marvel’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was the only American film to cross that threshold during the global health crisis.

The expected success of “The Batman” also comes with a symbolic embrace of the theatrical model and a return to normalcy, after WarnerMedia pulled out all the stops to promote its streaming service last year.

Warner Bros. has made the decision to stream all of its 2021 movies on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters. It was a momentous choice that shook the foundations of the theatrical market and of Hollywood itself. This decision made HBO Max an attractive service for new subscribers, and ruffled feathers from some of the studio’s top designers.

Yet Warner Bros.’ The decision to go with a hybrid approach also appears to be detrimental to the box office results of his films.

The studio’s 2021 list produced two Best Picture nominees in ‘Dune’ and ‘King Richard,’ but box office receipts from those films were limited, though the sci-fi epic fared considerably better. . Another hit from the studio, “The Matrix Resurrections,” was even more disappointing, opening under $11 million in North America and grossing just $156 million worldwide.

Streaming data isn’t usually disclosed, so it’s unclear how these films performed on HBO Max, which notably exceeded expectations with its subscription efforts, topping 73 million worldwide, based on the company’s recent results.

Even so, it seems indisputable that giving viewers access to these titles at home has dulled their theatrical performance and only heightened concerns among theater owners that streaming is undermining their business.

Warner Bros. announced last year that he would return to exclusive theatrical releases in 2022.

“A return to form”

Now that the Discovery deal has received regulatory approval and is expected to close in April, Warner Bros. has a chance to flex its muscles and potentially impress new management with the strength of its IP and operations.

Outside of ‘The Batman,’ Warner Bros.’ a large pipeline of movies heading straight to theaters is great news for an industry still trying to recover from the pandemic.

Warner Bros. is home to many popular brands and movies that are potential box office hits. For example, in 2019 it was the No. 2 studio by box office revenue, with around $1.6 billion domestically, or a market share of almost 14%, according to Comscore (SCOR).
The only studio to earn more that year was Disney, which had a 2019 record and 33% market share.

For WarnerMedia, “it’s a return to form in recognition of the tremendous value that unfettered box office revenue has from a business perspective,” Robbins said. “As well as the community significance that going to the movies still has in global culture.”


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