‘The Batman’s Success on HBO Max Proves Warner Bros’ Day & Date Release Strategy Was an Epic Failure

Many studios experimented with distribution strategies for movies during the pandemic. This involved releasing movies on premium VOD (video-on-demand) or just dropping movies straight to streaming services. Warner Bros. made the interesting decision to release their entire slate of 2021 movies on HBO Max on the same day as theaters for no additional charge. While they definitely gained subscribers, the movies suffered at the box office. The recent success of The Batman on HBO Max proves that Warner Bros. made the wrong decision. 

HBO Max day and date movies did not perform well at the box office

Robert Pattinson attends the premiere of the Warner Bros. movie The Batman, now streaming on HBO Max
Robert Pattinson | Cindy Ord/WireImage

This experiment began in December 2020 with Wonder Woman 1984 and ended in December 2021 with The Matrix Resurrections. In total, Warner Bros. released 17 movies in theaters and on HBO Max. While some were successful in both forms, it was few and far between. 

Movies like Space Jam: A New Legacy, In the Heights, The Matrix Resurrections, and The Suicide Squad really suffered from being available on streaming at the same time as theaters. The only two movies that made over $100 million domestically are Godzilla Vs. Kong and Dune

There are other factors for why these movies didn’t perform well at the box office, but the convenience of being able to watch them at home is definitely a major one. While this decision made sense at the beginning of 2021 since a vaccine hadn’t been widely available until the spring, the decision made way less sense later in the year as more movies began to do well at the box office. 

The decision from Warner Bros. also strained relationships between the studios and filmmakers. Director Denis Villeneuve openly criticized the decision and stressed that Dune was meant to be seen on the big screen. Christopher Nolan, director of Tenet, slammed Warner Bros. over the HBO Max choice and even moved to Universal for his next movie, Oppenheimer

‘The Batman’ is doing better on HBO Max than most of the day & date releases

On April 18, The Batman debuted on HBO Max after a 45-day theatrical window. The DC movie is in theaters still, but it is following a similar model that other studios are adopting. In its first week on the streaming service, The Batman performed better than every single day & date release, except for Mortal Kombat

According to Deadline, The Batman gained a total of 4.1 million in first-week viewership from Smart TV households. This beat many other day & date films including The Suicide Squad (3.5 million), Wonder Woman 1984 (3.2 million), and The Matrix Resurrections (3.2 million). It also beat Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which had a viewership of 2.2 million. 

‘The Batman’ has been a large success for Warner Bros.

Before HBO Max, The Batman has been a massive success at the box office. The Robert Pattinson-led movie has garnered over $750 million worldwide. Not only that, but it has received great reviews from both audiences and critics. A sequel has not been officially confirmed, but there are some spinoffs being announced, including a Penguin series with Colin Farrell

After seeing its success at the box office and on HBO Max, The Batman has proved that the shortened theatrical window is beneficial for both the movie and the studio. The movie built up good word-of-mouth in theaters and once it became available on streaming, viewers who skipped the theaters finally decided to watch it at home. 

What Warner Bros. did in 2021 was a cautionary tale and The Batman appears to show the correct model for distribution going forward. 

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