When I was but a wee babe, missing a blockbuster in the movie theater meant waiting a full year (or what felt like a year to a child) for that film to show up in rental form at actual Blockbuster. Or, for those who could afford it, premium cable channels like Home Box Office (HBO) greatly reduced that wait time, allowing audiences to skip the movie talkers, expensive tickets, and people’s feet on the seats of actual cinemas. At the time, there was a faction of movie theater-lovers who wondered if HBO was a box office killer, though it wasn’t really. But it finally appears they were right to worry: HBO Max and covid-19 may have permanently canceled the concept of going to the movies.
Beginning with Wonder Woman 1984, which will be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, Warner Brothers (part of the company that owns HBO) has decided to release its 2021 slate in people’s homes as well as their local theaters, thereby removing the choice between living and being supportive of Robin Wright. Other films set for theater/HBO Max release include The Suicide Squad, The Matrix 4, Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong and Space Jam: A New Legacy, Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Reminiscence, Malignant, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard and Cry Macho, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
And though the likely death of giant AMC or Regal theaters with overpriced tickets and popcorn that is somehow still completely worth it is overall depressing news from a depressing year, I do hope the fact that superheroes are now more heavily relegated to living rooms ushers in a new age of movie theaters that simply show old movies everyone likes while also selling beer. The Alamo Drafthouse style of cinema works because it is about watching a movie, yes, but it is also about sitting quietly in the company of other quiet people and watching a large movie (sometimes a large movie that one has watched many times on a small home screen) whilst also being a little bit drunk. And that is a timeless business model that is hopefully pandemic and HBO-proof.