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Project Popcorn defines Jason Kilar's WarnerMedia legacy

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar standing by himself in front of a CNN Heroes step and repeat.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for CNN

Jason Kilar might have only spent two years running WarnerMedia, but his deal-making style will leave a long-lasting legacy in Hollywood.

Why it matters: He may not have always been the most popular guy in town, but many of Kilar's more radical ideas have also been adopted by rivals. Here are his three most impactful:

Project Popcorn: This will be the move etched on Kilar's career tombstone. Kilar's decision to release Warner Bros.' entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max the same day as their theatrical debuts caught pretty much everyone by surprise.

  • Though it ruffled more than a few feathers around Tinseltown (and cost Warner Bros. its longstanding relationship with Christopher Nolan), the end result was theaters were guaranteed 21 films when most other studios were still delaying theirs, while HBO Max grew better than most expected during its second year.
  • Disney, Comcast and Paramount have also dabbled in hybrid releases as "day-and-date" has become more commonplace.

Streaming-focused reorganization: One of Kilar's first big moves as CEO was to completely reshape how WarnerMedia operates by breaking down silos between the companies' three main businesses, while at the same time separating content development from distribution in what was largely viewed as a way to prioritize streaming.

  • Disney and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal would undergo similar changes that put streaming at the center.

HBO Max launch: HBO Max was already on the way when Kilar took over in May of 2020, but he steered it through its bumpy launch, and with Project Popcorn, helped HBO Max reach its subscriber goals ahead of schedule.

  • When it combines with Discovery+, it will be comfortably among the big players alongside Netflix and Disney.

The latest: Kilar isn't the only top exec leaving. Ann Sarnoff and Andy Forssell — the heads of Warner Bros. and HBO Max, respectively — are also out once the merger closes.

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