By Vic Medina | Published
A lot of folks aren’t happy with HBO Max right now, and the streaming service isn’t doing itself any favors with its latest announcement. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has revealed that HBO Max will no longer adhere to the 45-day window for Warner Bros. theatrical releases to premiere on the service for home viewing, according to Comic Book. The practice helped bolster subscriptions to HBO Max, and the change will likely upset many viewers who don’t feel like waiting months for new releases to be available on streaming.
Subscribers loved the fact that they were able to watch The Batman on HBO Max 45 days after its March 4 theatrical release, but the film’s box office take plummeted when that happened. Zaslav says Warner Bros. will now decide on a case-by-case basis when theatrical films hit streaming services, indicating that bigger hits may take longer to be available for home viewing, and may not be HBO Max exclusives at all. Instead, the focus will be on keeping movies in theaters. “We will fully embrace theatrical, as we believe that creates interest and demand, provides a great marketing tailwind, and generates word of mouth buzz as films transition to streaming and beyond,” Zaslav said.
The announcement comes on the heels of recent news that HBO Max is moving away from scripted content and embracing reality-based programming, which is cheaper to produce but still gets viewers. It has also canceled a number of high-profile films and series, including batgirl (which was already completed and cost $90 million to produce) and The Wonder Twins movie based on the DC Comics characters. In addition, some previously-exclusive HBO content has been removed from the service, and must now be purchased to watch. It’s all the result of the merger last year between Warner Bros. and Discovery, the TV media giant behind The Food Network, HGTV, and The ID Network. HBO Max and Discovery+ (the streaming service for Discovery shows) will merge into one service, and the new leadership is changing how they will operate. Cost-cutting is the rule of the day now, as the cancellation of batgirl will provide a tax write-off for the corporation. Viewers, as you might expect, are not on board.
Warner Bros. Discovery (the name of the newly-formed media giant) is undoing many of the HBO Max practices instituted by former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar before the merger. Some of the changes made sense, including the shift away from releasing theatrical films on HBO Max on the same day. Although done in response to the pandemic closing many theaters, the move angered directors like Denis Villeneuve, who was upset that his film dune was available on HBO Max day and date of release, saying the decision undercut his intent to experience the film on the big screen.
Warner Bros. Discovery/HBO Max is not the only one shifting its streaming practices. Paramount+, another up-and-coming studio-based streamer, appears to also be moving away from a shortened release window for theatrical to home viewing. Part of that was due to Tom Cruise reportedly demanding that his latest hit film, Top Gun: Maverick, get a 120-day release window, allowing it to enjoy a longer, more profitable run in theaters. Paramount seems to have given in to their star, whose Mission: Impossible franchise still makes them millions. Although no official announcement has been made, it appears the film won’t be on Paramount+ until September, at the earliest.