The new Mortal Kombat film that was scheduled to come out in March has a new release date: Warner Bros. announced on Twitter that the movie will arrive in theaters and the HBO Max streaming service on April 16. The new date follows a couple weeks behind Warner's surprise December 3 announcement that its entire lineup of films for 2021 will be available on HBO Max alongside their theatrical releases.
The "hybrid" release model was developed "as a strategic response to the impact of the ongoing global pandemic, particularly in the US," Warner said at the time. After one month on HBO Max, films will be removed from the service, but will continue to be available in theaters in the US and other countries.
On April 16, Mortal Kombat enters the arena. Coming to theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max. #MortalKombatMovie pic.twitter.com/mjB8DRhyYMDecember 14, 2020
"We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group," WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group CEO Ann Sarnoff said. "No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021."
Warner says the plan is a one-year one-off to help compensate for box office losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but even so it's drawn significant backlash from critics who believe that it will do long-term damage to the film industry. Tenet director Christopher Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter that the film industry "went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service," while Dune director Denis Villeneuve wrote in Variety that "streaming alone can’t sustain the film industry as we knew it before COVID."
"Warner Bros.' decision means Dune won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph," he wrote. "Warner Bros. might just have killed the Dune franchise."
A film like Mortal Kombat isn't likely to have much impact on that situation one way or the other: It was never going to be a box-office smash (and I say that as someone who loved the 1995 flick), nor is it likely to spur anyone to spring for an HBO Max subscription. It will make for an interesting early test-case, though, and in fact that option was on the table prior to the announcement of the 2021 release plan. According to this Variety report, Warner had considered giving Mortal Kombat a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release before deciding to delay it—and then, ultimately, to do both.
Producer Todd Garner said on Twitter that a trailer will be released "in the new year." We can only hope that it will it live up to the original magic.
Update: As a few readers have helpfully pointed out, the video originally embedded at the top of the post (and since removed) was not an official Warner/HBO Max teaser, but fan-made. Hey, I don't watch a lot of movies. Apologies for the confusion.