WarnerMedia’s “Project Popcorn” doesn’t fully pop
The Future. WarnerMedia’s Project Popcorn (its strategy of releasing its 2021 film slate simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max) produced relatively strong subscriber growth for the new streamer but paltry box office grosses. Even though the studio is changing course in 2022 with releasing films either in theaters or on HBO Max, a potential leadership change from the in-the-works spinoff to Discovery could write a different story once again.
Failure to launch
With 2021 almost coming to a close, how did WarnerMedia’s Project Popcorn play out?
- Other than The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Dune, the film slate didn’t meet expectations at the box office.
- Dune opened at the highest, with $41 million stateside.
- But, the move was a modest boon to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streamer — it gained roughly 7 million subscribers in the U.S. over the past year (from 38 million to 45 million).
- Mortal Kombat scored the most viewers with 3.8 million.
- WarnerMedia brass says that the feature film slate’s simultaneous release was the biggest driver of that growth.
Still, there’s not enough data on whether these films would’ve done better at the box office if they were exclusively released in theaters. Pandemic habits are unpredictable.
Back the butts
Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman, CEO Ann Sarnoff, already announced that Project Popcorn would close after 2021. And moving forward, theatrical titles will have a 45-day theatrical window before appearing on HBO Max. But only 12 films per year will get this rollout… with another 12 being made exclusively for HBO Max. The new best of both worlds.
With theaters mostly back up and swinging (Shang-Chi, Venom, and Dune are doing great business), all eyes are on King Richard and Matrix: Resurrections to provide a conclusion to WarnerMedia’s experiment.