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Scene from "Dune." Credit: Warner Bros.

In a move that will undoubtedly shape the future of cinema for years to come, Warner Bros. said Thursday that it will release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max, the streaming service owned by its parent AT&T, at the same time that the films debut in theaters.

Why it matters: It's the latest and most aggressive effort by a movie studio to get its titles in front of audiences at home during the pandemic. The move is a major blow to movie exhibitors, which are already struggling to survive the pandemic.

Details: Warner Bros. said in a statement that it will put all of its movies on HBO Max for one month in the U.S. After that month, the films will leave the streaming service and will continue to appear exclusively in theaters for the next 60 days (The traditional window of exclusivity for theaters has for decades been 90 days).

  • This means that many of the studio's biggest hits, like "Matrix 4" and "The Suicide Squad 2," will all be available to people at home when they debut next year.
  • Some movies that were already postponed from their theater debuts, like "Dune," will also be made available next year via streaming.
  • In total, Warner Bros. says it will make 17 films available via streaming.

Be smart: The move will undoubtedly delight consumers but anger theater chains who are dependent on having the exclusivity of airing those films in order to sell tickets.

  • Many of the biggest theater chains pushed to reopen this Labor Day weekend to get the Warner Bros. hit "Tenet" in front of consumers. But a lackluster opening forced more theaters to eventually shut in the weeks to follow.
  • In response to closed theaters and lackluster attendance, movie studios have delayed the release of their biggest hits this year, worsening the outlook for theaters.

By the numbers: Theaters have been one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, grossing about $2 billion in revenue in the U.S. compared to a whopping $11 billion last year.

  • Theater chains in August rolled out a joint set of industry-wide safety protocols to try to lure back consumers, but attendance remains low. Surveys show that until there's a widely available vaccine, most consumers are nervous about returning.
  • Analysts have said that the pandemic could put entire theater chains out of business.
  • Theater stocks sunk after the announcement Thursday. The industry has been begging Congress for relief packages to survive.

The big picture: Warner Bros. says that this "hybrid model" was created as a strategic response to the impact of the pandemic and that it will only last for a year, but it's hard to imagine that this initiative, in addition to efforts from other studios, will be temporary.

  • AMC and Cinemark earlier this year both brokered deals with Universal to allow many Universal films to appear on premium video on-demand services after being made available in theaters for 17 days (three full weekends).
  • Premium video on-demand is different from subscription streaming in that it requires consumers to pay outright to rent a single movie — usually around $20 in the days and weeks around its theater release.
  • Disney this year put two of its biggest hits — the live action remake of "Mulan" and Pixar's "Soul" — on its streaming service Disney+ in conjunction with their theatrical debuts.

The bottom line: The collective efforts from most of the biggest Hollywood movie studios to make their top films available to consumers at home spells trouble for the theater industry, which will remain in shambles for foreseeable future.

Go deeper: Theater windows shrink

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Reddit traders' real-world positive consequences

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals

Thanks to Reddit, AMC Entertainment has managed to take $700 million of debt off its balance sheet, as well as raising $506 million of fresh cash in the stock market.

Driving the news: The movie-theater chain and hot meme stonk of the moment converted $100 million of junior debt into equity on Monday, while also raising fresh equity capital. Then, on Thursday, it announced that $600 million of senior debt had also been converted into equity, at a price of $13.51 per share.

Mayors feel powerless to reduce homelessness

Expand chart
Recreated from 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

America's mayors know their constituents hold them accountable for homelessness, but many don't feel they have the tools or power to fix things, a brand new survey says.

Why it matters: While homelessness has become more acute during the pandemic, city leaders say they lack the money, staff or political support needed to make a meaningful difference.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard

Microsoft

Microsoft announced Tuesday it plans to acquire video game giant Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in cash.

Why it matters: The move comes as Activision Blizzard has faced a wave of accusations of workplace harassment.