It’s been a rough week for HBO Max and it looks like it's going to get worse before an expected merger with Discovery Plus has a chance to make anything better.
An industry source has told Decider (opens in new tab) that, despite previous guarantees, movies in 2022 will no longer be guaranteed to release on the streaming service 45 days after their theatrical release. Going forward each movie will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
This is a sharp contrast from 2020 when movies such as Wonder Woman 1984 were coming out on HBO Max and theaters simultaneously. However, it does fit in line with the overall trend over at the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery: the bottom line is what matters.
HBO Max's recent troubles
HBO Max has been the source of a lot of news this week. At one point it was rumored that the service would be scrapped entirely and replaced by an HBO tab in Discovery Plus.
It has since come out that some of our fears about HBO Max are not coming to pass, but the streaming service has still definitely taken some hits. First, six movies quietly disappeared — or rather, they attempted to quietly disappear until everyone found out. Then Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav pulled the plug on Batgirl, a $90 million movie that was already mostly finished.
Zaslav has a clear plan and to be fair, HBO Max is also clearly in it. The information presented at the quarterly earnings call on August 4 shows that HBO Max isn’t going anywhere, though it is likely merging with Discovery Plus. Plus HBO chief Casey Bloys just got a massive five-year contract, which is clearly a vote of confidence from Zaslav. But it's also clear that the vision for Zaslav means maximizing the potential of the Warner Bros. Discovery catalog, and that maximaztion could take some very painful forms.
Analysis: Which movies could this affect?
At the moment we do not know which movies this affects, as it is technically just a rumor. However, this plan would make sense for Warner Bros. Discovery, as it maximizes their box office revenue for each movie by forcing people to see films in theaters.
Upcoming DC movies such as Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods are likely candidates to take a longer time than expected to show up on the smaller screen. My guess: the bigger the movie, the longer it will take to fall into HBO Max’s catalog.
Given that films such as Top Gun Maverick are showing that certain movies can still dominate the box office, its not a total surprise to see this move.
Still, it is a disappointment. It was a great benefit that for your $14.99 a month you could just wait a month and a half and see The Batman from the comfort of your own couch.