Following the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Thursday, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has confirmed the company is moving on from the previous regime’s ‘Project Popcorn’ plans.
Those plans resulted in movies like “The Batman” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” arriving on HBO Max 45 days after their release – whilst at the same time premiering as premium video-on-demand (PVOD) rentals/purchases on the likes of iTunes and Amazon.
Paramount and Disney have a similar arrangement with their films, with simultaneous SVOD and PVOD bows. One key difference is that those studios have been a little more flexible in regards to dates. This allows movies that are proving to have legs in cinemas to stay as theatrical exclusives for a few days or weeks longer.
Universal, on the other hand, is all in on PVOD – releasing their movies at 17 or 31-day intervals after their theatrical runs on PVOD platforms and holding off on releasing them on its own SVOD service Peacock until considerably later.
Warner Bros. Discovery is now adopting a new approach that’s a hybrid of the competition’s approaches. Starting with “Elvis” on August 9th, the film will be released to rent or purchase on PVOD platforms at the 45-day mark.
However, a same-day SVOD release has been scrapped. Instead, it will become available on HBO Max at a considerably later date which has yet to be specified. One scenario is the more traditional 90-day mark which would be a late September release and would fit Baz Luhrmann’s wish that the movie not be available on HBO Max until the Fall.
PVOD provides an immediate financial return as the studio retains 80% of the revenue. More importantly though, as has been demonstratively proven with Universal’s PVOD releases this year like “The Black Phone” and “The Bad Guys,” the impact on box-office is negligible as box-office drop-off % rates stay steady in the weekends after a film becomes available on PVOD. SVOD availability, however, seems to have a larger negative impact on box-office returns and streaming sales/rentals.
The new approach theoretically allows for a best of both worlds scenario – maximising a film’s theatrical and digital sell-through potential before joining its streaming library. “Elvis” currently stands at $238 million at the global box-office.
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