No More Warner Bros. Movies Moving to HBO Max After 45 Days in Theaters
Many strategic re-direction moves have been made in response to the newly announced HBO Max and Discovery+ merger, leaving people to wonder where they stand in this streamer limbo. HBO Max, a streaming service known for its love of movies, is reportedly changing its release schedule and what movies will be available. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav confirmed the company’s shift from “Project Popcorn” to a “case-by-case basis” when deciding which movies will be available to subscribers following the second quarter earnings call on August 4.
Zaslav is swinging his figurative axe once more to chop off members’ access to films at the knees in the name of his “Project Popcorn,” following HBO Max subscribers’ profitable increase after what they internally referred to as “strategic shift.” Former Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar had the idea for this scheme, which would see the whole Warner Bros. 2021 film slate flood the streaming service at the same time, and users would be able to see movies in 2022 after only a 45-day theatrical window had closed. After HBO Max’s 2020 launch was postponed, Kilar’s strategies were successful, increasing the service’s global member base to 73.8 million by 2021’s end, with 11 million new subscribers joining in that year alone. On August 4, the recently merged Warner Bros. Discovery (which offers both HBO Max and Discovery+) touted 92.1 million subscribers, but there was no word on how many HBO Max earned alone since 2021 on the call.
Blockbusters such as The Batman with Robert Pattinson and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore were made available to fans under Project Popcorn 45 days following their theatrical premiere. Under Kilar, HBO Max subscribers were promised exclusive programming, including the now-infamous Batgirl. There was no time to waste, a handful of exclusive HBO Max originals have been quietly removed from the streaming service, no longer accessible to HBO Max subscribers, but still available for purchase or rental. A WBD insider tells us that Baz Luhrmann’s over-$200 million movie Elvis will no longer be on HBO Max in the coming week, but that the picture will ultimately make its way to the streamer – there is just no news yet when.
In the Q2 conference call, Zaslav said, “
“This idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. […] We’re making a strategic shift. As part of that, we’ve been out in the town talking about our commitment to the theatrical exhibition and the theatrical window. A number of movies will be launched with shorter windows.”
Consumer connection with theatrical releases changed dramatically following the pandemic, and the industry has been taking steps to restore Hollywood’s iron fist. The utilisation of IMAX and cinematic nostalgia by certain filmmakers makes their pictures onscreen spectacles, while others demand a theatrical release window of 100 days or no dice. Considering Christopher Nolan’s declaration that HBO Max was the “the worst streaming service,” it appears that the latter’s words were taken into consideration. Subscribers should expect even more significant adjustments in the near future.
HBO Max’s main selling point was its ability to quickly air big-budget movies like The Hunger Games and HBO originals like Seth Rogen’s An American Pickle. However, Zaslav did not give any indication as to whether the service would continue to develop originals like the New Line Cinema re-imagining of 1990’s House Party starring Jacob Latimore (which was also quietly withdrawn off its release schedule). Like Studio Ghibli and TCM, Crunchyroll’s future is now in doubt because the CEO omitted to mention them in his streamer umbrella presentation.