The pandemic didn’t kill traditional movie releases, but it does mean you can watch new films at home sooner

Mulan
‘Mulan’ (2020) Disney
  • Studios are transitioning back to traditional movie releases after the pandemic upended how they were premiered.
  • However, the theatrical release windows will now be 45 days, shorter than the pre-pandemic 90 days.
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It looks like pandemic-era movie theater and streaming service dual-releases will soon be coming to an end.

Disney, Paramount, and now Warner Bros. have agreed to exclusive theater release windows, signaling an end to platforms like HBO Max and Disney+ showing new movies at the same time as theaters.

However, there does seem to be one semi-permanent change from the pre-pandemic world: movies will be shown for a shorter amount of time in theaters before they land online, meaning you can watch new films at home sooner than before.

AMC, the largest theater chain operator in the US, announced Monday a deal with Warner Bros. to ensure movies are shown in theaters for 45 days before landing online. That 45-day window is much shorter than the traditional 75 to 90 days.

Reports had previously surfaced in March that Warner Bros. was axing its direct-to-streaming releases and returning to exclusive theater debuts in 2022. And the studio made a deal with Regal Cinemas’ Cineworld earlier this year to show movies for 45 days in theaters before offering them online.

Its movies planned for 2022, like “The Batman,” now will first be released exclusively to theaters before being offered online.

Disney said on a May earnings call that it is also transitioning back to exclusive theater releases, albeit with the shorter 45-day window. And Paramount made a similar deal for its tentpole movies like “Mission: Impossible 7” to have 45-day slots.

Streaming saw a huge rise in popularity since March 2020 as pandemic-driven shutdowns closed movie theaters and people sought at-home entertainment. Studios like Warner Bros., which operates the HBO Max platform, were forced to survive via dual movie releases – movies like “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” aired on HBO Max during the pandemic.

Disney+ similarly offered the live-action remake of “Mulan” online at the same time as it was shown in theaters. Many in the filmmaking world speculated whether or not dual-releases would be the death knell for traditional cinema. Directors Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins, and “Blade Runner 2049″‘s Denis Villeneuve have all expressed concern over the move.

We saw one of the first sticky byproducts of the decision earlier this month when actress Scarlett Johanssen filed a lawsuit against Disney over its “Black Widow” dual release, arguing that the studio violated her contract.

She and other actors earn their salaries largely based on box office performance, a cut that the lawsuit says could have been greater had the movie not simultaneously been released online. “Black Widow” earned $158 million worldwide in theaters, while Disney raked in $60 million in home sales for the movie.