Warner Bros. made history last week when it announced its partnership with HBO to release its entire 2021 lineup to the streaming service HBO Max, in addition to releasing the movies to theaters. This is the first major motion picture company to have inked such an industry-changing deal, and one that will likely have irreversible effects on how we pay for and enjoy new movie releases. 

In a survey of 1,600 respondents, 18% of U.S. adults who plan on seeing one or more Warner Bros. 2021 films intend to stream through HBO Max while 10% plan to go to the movie theater.

The majority of survey respondents (67%) said they will wait to see any Warner Bros’s movie until it’s widely available or no longer new.

Looking at income shows us that people making under $50K per year are predominantly waiting for these specific new releases to be more widely available before watching them for the first time. HBO Max is a monthly subscription, and the new releases will only be available for a short time before disappearing (similar to how theatrical releases work, except the time frame will be shorter). Households making over $100K per year are three times more likely than low-income households to watch through HBO Max.

The question everyone wants an answer to is whether or not people miss the movie theater experience enough to keep major motion pictures from taking over streaming services. Among Americans who go to the movies, 62% say they do miss the experience (this is a 7% increase since first polling in May).

Although, movie-goers might not miss it enough to buy a ticket and drive to a physical theater — at least not enough for a Warner Bros.’s picture.

In a similar survey of 2,500 U.S. adults, almost one-third said they are at least somewhat likely to watch one of Warner Bros.’s 2021 new releases on HBO Max rather than buy a ticket to see it in theaters. When rebased to compare only those planning to watch one or more of WB’s new films, those who intend to stream make up almost half.

Something to keep in mind is that the committed movie-goers are a smaller group within the general public. Americans at large have always preferred watching a movie at home to going out to the movie theater. Is it possible consumers were made for this moment in at-home entertainment history?

Furthermore, streaming new releases has remained something people like doing and intend to do at the same rate they did during the height of the pandemic. Once lockdowns were lifted, people stayed interested in getting new movies at home.

The pandemic keeps business unpredictable which is why CivicScience continuously tracks consumer sentiment, preferences, and opinions. As new partnerships emerge and the industry shifts to a hybrid of virtual and in-person entertainment options, you can count on our insights.