Skip to main content

Batman, The Flash Deal Another Blow to AMC and Cinemark

Warner Bros. will give the DCEU movies a theatrical window, but it's not a long one.

Can you wait 45 days to see the latest blockbuster film if it means getting access to it as part of a streaming service you already pay for? For Walt Disney's (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report "Spider-Man: Now Way Home," the answer was no, but will that be true for films that consumers aren't quite as excited about?

The answer to that question may decide whether AMC Entertainment (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report and Cinemark (CNK) - Get Cinemark Holdings, Inc. Report have viable businesses that can grow back to their pre-pandemic windows.

What Has Batman Done to AMC and Cinemark? 

AT&T's (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report Warner Bros. film studio controls the DC Comics extended universe (DCEU). That's the series of films starring the Justice League characters including Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and, of course, Batman.

The DCEU has not been nearly as successful as Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which routinely produces billion-dollar box office while making bankable franchise stars out of lesser characters like Ant-Man and Dr. Strange.

DC arguably has some of the biggest names in comics, but its success rate -- especially in the current era of films -- has been hit or miss. That makes its latest news a real problem, at least potentially, for the two big theater chains.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has said that upcoming films from his company will have a theater-exclusive window in 2022. That changed the company's pandemic-era policy where movies like "Wonder Woman: 1984" were released on HBO Max on the same day they came out in theaters.

That window, however, will be brief compared to how things used to be. 

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

"Think about when movies would show up on HBO, which is eight to nine months after theatrical premiere. The Batman is going to show up on day 46 on HBO Max. [...] That is a huge change from where things were in 2018, 2017, 2016," Kilar said, according to Collider.

Kilar expects other upcoming Warner films, including "The Flash" to have the same 45-day window.

"I feel really, really good knowing that "The Batman," and "Black Adam," and "The Flash," and "Elvis", and a whole host of other movies, are literally going to be showing up on day 46 on HBO Max in a variety of territories all over the world. That is a very, very big change that I don't think people appreciate, and I feel really good about it."

The Big Gamble for Theaters

Skipping a movie in theaters used to mean waiting for over six months before it appeared on a paid service like HBO. If the period of time consumers have to wait for a film to appear on a platform they already pay for (or could add for around the cost of one movie ticket) people may opt to skip most films in the theaters.\

Certain movies are exempt because people want to see them quickly to either avoid spoilers or find out what's next in a film series (like the MCU) that they have invested a lot of time in. The question for AMC and Cinemark is whether there are enough event films that people won't wait a few weeks, or even a couple of months to see to make theaters a successful business.

Warner Bros., and to a less extent, Disney, no longer calculate film success based solely on box office. They also calculate in whether a movie drives subscribers to their streaming platforms. 

Box office revenue gets shared with AMC, Cinemark, and other theater owners. Streaming revenue largely stays with the company. That makes it somewhat less important for at least some films to drive huge dollars while in theaters, which could ultimately make theaters much less relevant.