Although Warner Bros. previously planned to send all of its movies to HBO Max after 45 days in theaters, it has now been announced that the company will use a case-by-case basis to determine when theatrically released films will be available to stream. HBO Max has been experiencing uncertainty recently with the cancellation or deletion of many original projects, namely the Batgirl movie, amid its merger with Discovery. With Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav now head of the media conglomerate, he has already implemented cost-cutting measures that have had major impacts on networks like CW and TNT.
Launching in 2020, HBO Max quickly saw success for its large movie library and original content and released all of Warner Bros. 2021 theatrical releases simultaneously. HBO Max also thrived with special events like the Friends reunion and Harry Potter 20th Anniversary reunion, but now appears to already be removing a number of movies and shows amid the Discovery+ merger, set to launch it Summer 2023, for not performing well with audiences and to adhere to the new content guidelines under Zaslav. The content cut could also be preparation to trim down the catalog before merging with Discovery+, but either way, original titles remaining on streaming services forever seems to no longer be a guarantee.
Decider reports from a source at HBO Max that the company will now use a case-by-case basis approach to determine when theatrically released films will be available to stream. Zaslav calls the decision a “strategic shift” away from releasing theatrically released films directly on HBO Max, leaving audiences to wonder how long they’ll have to wait to stream movies. Changes to the streaming platform’s content releases have already started to affect films like Elvis, which was originally set to release on HBO Max after the usual 45-day window. Now, it doesn’t have a release date for HBO Max and will instead be available to buy and rent on other digital platforms.
The new case-by-case basis reflects the end of the “Project Popcorn” era, which had all of Warner Bros.’ theatrical movies simultaneously available to stream on HBO Max in 2021, and then changed to available to stream after the 45-day theatrical window in 2022. The tactic was not well received by filmmakers and other industry professionals, but was a godsend to audiences stuck at home during the pandemic and consuming more content than ever. However, audiences will now have to wait an unknown amount of time to stream films on HBO Max, and the content library may change significantly.
HBO Max’s future compared to its past premium original content looks grim, especially with the cancellation of big titles like Batgirl. The merge with Discovery+ makes sense to avoid redundancy in streaming platforms, but HBO Max should be wary of cost-cutting and a shift to unscripted TV shows. Fans are angry at cancellations and unsure about the future of some fan-favorite titles, and HBO Max still seems to be unsure of itself amid the merger and new leadership.
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Author: Maegan Kirby