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WB Returning To Theater-Only Releases In 2022 With 45-Day Limited Window


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Warner Bros. will return to theater-only releases with their 2022 films after inking a deal with Regal Cinemas to shorten the theatrical exclusivity window. Late in 2020, WB announced that their entire 2021 slate would be hitting theaters and HBO Max on the same day. The films will stay on the streamer for 31 days after their initial release and are available to subscribers at no extra charge. The decision was unprecedented, as was much of 2020, and it ignited a firestorm of controversy in the industry.

WB's handling of the announcement was a flashpoint for criticism - the studio surprised most of their creators and performers with the announcement, sans a few they had looped in on the decision. Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins and its star, Gal Gadot, both scored significant compensatory plans that would make up for the lack of box office take, but many other directors and actors were left wondering if they would be able to score the same. The studio promised that this would be a temporary solution to the ongoing pandemic, promising a return to normal theatrical releases in 2022.

Warner Bros. has now made good on that promise (sort of). According to Deadline, the studio has reached a deal with Cineworld, owner of Regal Cinemas (the second-largest theatrical chain in the world), wherein the studio will release their films solely in theaters, but it comes with a catch. Part of the deal sees Warner Bros. shortening the theatrical exclusivity window, with films staying in theaters for 45 days before the company makes them available on PVOD or HBO Max. Prior to 2020, the typical theatrical exclusivity window was 90 days.

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Prior to the upending of the industry in 2020, the typical theatrical exclusivity window was around 90 days. That all changed when theaters were forced to close down for the majority of the year and most major studios were left with numerous high-profile films on their hands with nowhere to put them. Studios like Sony, Disney, Universal, and WB experimented with new ways of getting films in front of viewers, leading to a tense situation between studios and exhibitors that culminated in the WB controversy.

In some ways, the deal between Regal and WB feels like the studio trying to make amends, but it's also proof that the pandemic has changed the industry in a permanent way. Streaming has dominated over the last year and studios continue to experiment with new ways to release their films. WB also still has quite a robust slate that will be hitting HBO Max this year and the shortening of the theatrical exclusivity window seems to be Warner Brother's way of ensuring that, in the future, their films can hit HBO Max or PVOD as soon as possible after their theatrical release.

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