When the calendar turns over to 2022, fans will notice a change in the way WarnerMedia distributes their films. In 2021, films such as The Matrix Resurrections and The Suicide Squad were released on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters through an experiment called “Project Popcorn.” This strategy, while appreciated by fans who weren’t ready to return to theaters during an ongoing pandemic, certainly put a dent in the box office returns for those films. In October, WarnerMedia brass indicated that while there will still be movies that debut on HBO Max (as many as 11), they will be returning to debuting many films in theaters.
One of WarnerMedia’ first big tentpoles to debut exclusively in theaters in 2022 will be Matt Reeves‘ The Batman. Reeves began developing the film in early 2017 after Ben Affleck, who was set to star and direct, hit some creative roadblocks. Reeves’ new take on the Caped Crusader will star Robert Pattinson as a young Bruce Wayne taking on the Riddler as he terrorizes Gotham City. Reeves is a long-time fan of the character and has plans for a trilogy and multiple spinoffs have already gone into development; to that end, The Batman represents a MAJOR investment for WarnerMedia and a successful theatrical run for the film is important.
That does not diminish the importance of HBO Max to the studio’s future success, however, and so while “Project Popcorn” is no more, Warner announced that films that debut theatrically, like The Batman, will have a 45-day run in theaters and will hit HBO Max on Day 46. While speaking with Peter Kafka on the Recode podcast, WarnerMedia CEO, Jason Kilar, confirmed this to be the case for The Batman, indicating it will debut on the streaming service on April 19, 2022. Kilar went on to confirm that the studio intends to follow suit with the releases of Black Adam and The Flash. With Disney, Warner’s chief competition, experimenting with longer windows for some of their bigger budget films, it looks like a new battle of the Streaming Wars in underway.