WarnerMedia Chief Jason Kilar On Warner Bros Slate Strategy: “The Motion Picture Format Absolutely Matters”

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Deadline 22 July, 2021 - 09:52am 23 views

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Asked during this morning’s AT&T quarterly earnings call about his current view of movie release strategy, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar declared, “The motion picture format absolutely matters.”

The entertainment unit posted strong second-quarter numbers, with revenue rising 31%, helping the parent company easily beat Wall Street estimates. A key area of focus, streaming service HBO Max, added 2.8 million subscribers along with regular HBO in the quarter. Together, they have 47 million subscribers in the U.S.

One major driver of subscriptions has been a subject of controversy and consternation in Hollywood: Warner Bros releasing its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max at the same time it arrives in theaters. As time has passed, the landmark decision has appeared to be less radical than it initially seemed, but the ultimate impact on the box office and windowing is still coming into focus.

“I certainly don’t see us going back to the way the world was in 2015 or ’16 or ’17, where windows were quite lengthy,” Kilar said. A 45-day theatrical exclusive is expected for select Warner Bros titles in 2022, though the studio will also produce at least 10 films that will premiere day-and-date on HBO Max and in theaters. “I think what you’re going to see is this industry continue to evolve and to continue to innovate in a way that not only works for consumers and fans but also works for our business partners.”

The company had initially projected producing 8 to 10 original films a year for HBO Max in an announcement in February 2020, before the pandemic and the day-and-date shift.

In a separate interview with Deadline after the earnings call, WarnerMedia EVP and GM of Direct-to-Consumer Andy Forssell said the presence of feature films on HBO Max was a big help in customer acquisitions.

“We are learning more and more about the interplay of feature films and episodic programming,” Forssell said. “And we’re getting better about marrying up and handing off” from one to the other. An early example how the two verticals can combine to benefit the whole came when Wonder Woman 1984 premiered in December. Many new viewers who watched the film then checked out Max Original series The Flight Attendant.

Production across the industry is still in the process of returning to normal levels after the widespread shutdowns of Covid-19. That has left even dominant players like Netflix with a thinner supply of programming. Forssell said the second quarter saw five Warner Bros releases, which he said helped offset a depleted supply of series. Non-film standouts in the period included the Friends reunion, Max Original series Hacks and HBO’s Mare of Easttown. The “combination of great, weighty film and fantastically attractive series” should only increase in coming quarters as production ramps up, he said.

HBO Max has begun to roll out internationally, reaching Latin America in late-June. Kilar said he was “feeling good about the launch,” but he declined to offer any specifics in terms of how many existing HBO customers had embraced HBO Max.

AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches said during the call that the launch of the streaming service in select European territories would be delayed until 2022, but the company nevertheless raised its guidance for subscribers to 70 million to 73 million by the end of 2021. Asked for clarification, Forssell said, “I wouldn’t read too much into” the European delays, affirming that the multi-year outlook remains intact. WarnerMedia is forecasting 120 million to 150 million global subscribers by 2025.

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Every Movie and TV Show Coming to HBO Max in August 2021

ComicBook.com 22 July, 2021 - 09:02pm

August is going to be a big month for HBO Max subscribers. The WarnerMedia-owned streaming service has established itself as a source for great movies and TV, and its popular roster of titles is going to add even more to its ranks next month. On Wednesday, HBO Max released the full list of movies and TV shows coming to its lineup in August, and it's filled with new originals and beloved classics alike.

Undoubtedly the biggest title hitting HBO Max in August is The Suicide Squad, the R-rated DC blockbuster from writer/director James Gunn. Like all other 2021 releases from Warner Bros., The Suicide Squad will debut on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters, but you have to have the ad-free version of the service in order to watch it.

Reminiscence, the mind-bending sci-fi thriller from Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy, is also getting the day-and-date treatment this month, arriving in theaters and on HBO Max August 20th.

Below, you can check out the full list of movies and TV shows coming to HBO Max next month.

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Sin Aliento (aka Breathless), 2020 (HBO)

All My Life, 2020 (HBO)

Hard Knocks '21: Dallas Cowboys, Sports-Based Reality Series Premiere (HBO)

The White Lotus, Limited Series Finale (HBO)

Godzilla vs. Kong, 2021 (HBO)

Lincoln: Divided We Stand, 2021

The Other Two, Max Original Season 2 Premiere

Magic Mike XXL, 2015 (HBO)

Copyright 2020 ComicBook.com. All rights reserved.

AT&T Q2 Earnings Impress Wall Street, After HBO and HBO Max Add 2.8 Million Subscribers

IndieWire 22 July, 2021 - 03:40pm

AT&T impressed Wall Street with a strong Q2 earnings report on Thursday, which included the news that the conglomerate added 2.8 million subscribers between HBO and the HBO Max streaming service.

The subscriber growth at HBO and HBO Max helped AT&T exceed Wall Street’s financial expectations for the company’s Q2; AT&T’s revenue rose to $44 billion, a 7.6 percent increase that surpassed analyst expectations of $42.67 billion, according to Refinitiv data obtained by CNBC. The subscriber gains were similar to those reported during AT&T’s Q1 earnings report, when the company stated that HBO and HBO Max had gained 2.7 million subscribers, which indicated a strong surge in interest for HBO Max following the streamer’s shaky launch last year.

As with most of the company’s earnings reports, AT&T did not specify how many of the subscriber gains were specifically for HBO Max.

Still, Thursday’s report on strong subscriber growth caused AT&T to raise its forecast for global HBO Max subscriber growth from 70 million to 73 million by the end of the year, an increase from its prior estimate of 67 to 70 million subscriber additions. AT&T’s stock was up 0.47 percent at press time.

HBO Max underwent a major development in June when AT&T rolled out a cheaper, ad-supported subscription option for the streaming service. The standard, ad-free HBO Max subscription tier costs $14.99 per month, making it one of the most expensive streaming services on the market. The ad-supported tier of the service costs $9.99 per month but does not feature the same-day premiere for films debuting in theaters.

Another likely factor in HBO Max’s continued subscriber growth is the company’s decision to simultaneously premiere its new Warner Bros films in theaters and on HBO Max. Though the decision caused controversy in Hollywood when it was announced last year, recent films such as “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat” likely helped HBO Max see a surge in subscribers during Q2 (while still hauling in strong theatrical grosses, especially during the pandemic).

On the television side, HBO Max generated considerable interest in Q2 thanks to the premiere of the long-awaited “Friends: The Reunion” unscripted special. HBO Max also bulked up its comedy library in Q2 via the Jean Smart-led “Hacks,” which received critical acclaim, as well as the sketch comedy series, “That Damn Michael Che.” Both titles have been renewed for second seasons.

While the gains at HBO and HBO Max largely defined AT&T’s latest earnings report, the conglomerate likely won’t be managing those entities for much longer: AT&T reported its second quarter earnings around two months after the company announced its intent to spin off WarnerMedia, which includes assets ranging from HBO and HBO Max to CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, and the Warner Bros. film and TV studios, and merge it with rival company Discovery, Inc. That deal is expected to close in mid-2022; at that time, AT&T will effectively be out of the entertainment and news media businesses.

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This Article is related to: Television and tagged AT&T, HBO Max, TV Business

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HBO Max Chief: Don't Blame 'In the Heights' Bad Box Office on Streaming Release

TheWrap 22 July, 2021 - 11:34am

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HBO Max chief Andy Forssell insists that the disappointing box office returns for last month’s Warner Bros. musical “In the Heights” had nothing to do with its simultaneous release on his streaming platform.

“It’s so hard to gauge how much did COVID have to do with it, especially with the COVID situation changing week by week, people’s willingness to go to a theater,” Forssell told TheWrap after WarnerMedia parent AT&T reported its second quarter earnings (which you can read about here). “I just know ‘In the Heights’ did really well on HBO Max — it did sort of lower end of the range of our expectations at the box office.”

For the record, director Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical opened to a modest $11.5 million in theaters in early June — and has grossed a total of $29 million since opening.

Forssell defended the company’s overall strategy of making Warner Bros.’ big-screen movies available on the streaming service for no extra cost. “We all tend to want to draw these conclusions, but I think it’s very different title by title, and really hard to be confident that you can draw a conclusion,” he said, noting that last weekend’s “Space Jam: A New Legacy” exceeded box office expectations with a $31 million debut in theaters while also claiming the No. 1 movie slot on HBO Max.

Read more from Andy Forssell, including his thoughts on rollout of the ad-supported version of HBO Max and plans for overseas expansion. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity:

It is not a huge driver of the growth yet in what you saw this quarter, but I think that will quickly change, quarter by quarter, as we go.

Somebody that comes for “Mortal Kombat” is probably not the dead center of the “Mare of Easttown” audience. But nevertheless, we can tell by what else they watched that, even though it might not be a huge number, some of the “Mortal Kombat” audience does turn out to be someone who would watch “Mare of Easttown.” We’re getting better and better at how to handoff between film and episodic. And it ends up showing up in retention, which is obviously super powerful.

But that said, I think any of those observations we make within a year or two are probably going to become moot. It’s gonna be a ton of experimentation in ’22, there’s going to be even more in ’23.

TV reporter • tim.baysinger@thewrap.com • Twitter: @tim_bays

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