Warner Bros. announcing that their biggest releases in 2021 would also get a same day release on HBO Max was always going to ripple through the entire industry. A few months into that experiment, we’ve now seen another studio decide to follow a similar strategy.
Paramount Pictures have announced that, moving forward, their major tentpole cinematic releases will begin streaming on their rebranded Paramount+ 45 days after theatrical release. So that’s movies like Mission: Impossible 7, A Quiet Place Part II, and Top Gun: Maverick all available to watch at home just a month and a half after their opening weekend.
In addition, non-tentpole releases will only get a 30-day theatrical window before hitting the streaming platform.
Paramount+ is just a rebranded version of CBS All Access, with the reboot launching on March 4th. In addition to continuing with original series like Star Trek: Discovery, Paramount+ is adding over 2,500 library films in a bid to compete with other streaming platforms.
Not only does this come in the wake of the Warner Bros./HBO Max decision, it also follows Universal Pictures deciding late last year that it will allow films to hit premium on-demand just 17 days after their theatrical release, providing they don’t hit certain box office thresholds. That prevents films like F9 going on-demand that early, but the majority of their releases will.
This is quickly becoming the new normal in Hollywood. The window between theatrical and home release has long been a battle between studios and cinemas, and the length between the two was gradually shrinking anyway. The pandemic has only accelerated it, and it looks like very short theatrical windows are here to stay.
Paramount’s decision at least gives their biggest films a solid month and a half in cinemas. That’s half the length of the traditional three month window, but still not the worst for cinemas. If it’s a big enough movie, audiences should still want to see it on a big screen before others, although there might be a tiny drop off when it comes to the most casual moviegoers.
It’s also worth mentioning that these shorter windows will mean that a film’s success will be judged even more on their opening weekend box office numbers. So smaller films that used to sit in cinemas longer and perform solidly over a longer period of time – which used to be very common – will pretty much become obsolete, further eroding the mid-budget movie.
What will be interesting is whether Warner Bros. continues their day-and-date HBO Max releases once the pandemic is over. The studio seemed to imply it was just for this year, but we’ll see. Their model is fine while cinemas are closed, but once they open with big WB releases like Dune and The Suicide Squad arriving later this year, will the studio still feel comfortable releasing those online the same day?
If so, that would likely be catastrophic for cinemas. However, continuing that strategy with cinemas open would probably also equal less money for Warner Bros., so it’s probably unlikely. For now, anyway.
We’ll wait and see whether other studios follow suit. For example, as it stands Disney are still holding onto theatrical-only releases for films such as Black Widow, although they are also developing separate films designed to be released only on Disney+.
Paramount’s next major release is the Mark Wahlberg sci-fi action film Infinite, which is due for a Friday, May 28th release. That will probably be the first to “benefit” from this decision. Top Gun: Maverick is slated for a summer release, while the still-untitled Mission: Impossible 7 arrives in November.