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Timothee Chalamet, left, and Rebecca Ferguson in a scene from the 2021 film Dune.

Chia Bella James/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP

In the most seismic shift by a Hollywood studio yet during the pandemic, Warner Bros. Pictures on Thursday announced that all of its 2021 film slate – including a new Matrix movie, Godzilla vs. Kong and the Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptation In the Heights – will stream on HBO Max at the same time they play in theatres.

Among the myriad release-plan changes wrought by the pandemic, no studio has so fully embraced streaming as a lifeline. But after disappointing domestic ticket sales for Tenet, and with the majority of U.S. theatres currently closed, Warner Bros. will turn to a hybrid distribution model. Films will debut simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max in the U.S. After one month, they will stop streaming and continue to play only in theatres.

The move follows Warner Bros.’ decision to put Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max next December, in addition to in theatres. If that pivot sent shockwaves through the industry, Thursday’s announcement was likely to rattle Hollywood to the core. It amounts to an acknowledgment that any full rebound for theatres is still a year or more away.

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“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do,” said Ann Sarnoff, chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios in a statement. “We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theatres in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”

Warner Bros. called it a one-year plan. The studio has generally ranked among the top two studios in market share over the past decade – most recently dwarfed only by Walt Disney Co.

Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate includes many of the expected top movies of the year, including Dune, The Suicide Squad, Tom & Jerry, The Conjuring: The Devil Make Me Do It, King Richard and Judas and the Black Messiah.

HBO Max is only available in the United States. Internationally, the studio’s 17 films planned for 2021 release will rollout in theatres.

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