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Jason Kilar says Warner movies will again debut in theaters before they stream

A few months ago, WarnerMedia upended Hollywood by streaming all of its new movies on HBO Max on the same day they debuted in theaters.

Now it wants to put the genie back in the bottle. Starting next year, CEO Jason Kilar says, Warner’s biggest movies will debut in theaters first and eventually make their way to the company’s streaming service.

“I think it’s very fair to say that a big, you know, let’s say a big DC movie … it’s very fair to say that that would go exclusively to theaters first and then go to somewhere like an HBO Max after it’s in theaters,” he told me on this week’s episode of Recode Media.

That means that this year, if you want to watch The Suicide Squad, a new DC comics movie, you’ll be able to stream it at home on the day it debuts. But in 2022, when Warner plans on releasing The Batman, you’ll have to head to theaters.

Kilar’s announcement won’t shock Hollywood: Cineworld, the company that owns the Regal theater chain in the US, has already announced that it has a deal to show Warner movies on its screens for 45 days before they move to streaming. And it’s reasonable to assume Warner planned to do the same with other big theater chains like AMC.

But until this week, WarnerMedia had yet to confirm it was moving back to some version of its pre-pandemic business plan. It’s another indicator that while big media companies are eager to build up their new streaming services, they still want to keep the traditional movie business running for a while longer. While companies like WarnerMedia, Disney, Comcast, and ViacomCBS have all experimented with streaming first-run movies while theaters were closed

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