- Release dates for Warner Bros. movies on HBO Max are determined on a movie-by-movie basis.
- The films were previously available to stream in theaters after 45 days.
- But Warner Bros. Discovery is adopting a more traditional distribution strategy.
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If you’re an HBO Max subscriber and don’t want to go to the cinema to see a Warner Bros. movie, you may have to wait a little longer than expected to stream it.
A Max spokesperson confirmed to Insider that the timing of the release of Warner Bros. films on the service will be determined in another apparent shift in strategy from film to film.
“Elvis,” the next WB movie expected to make its way to Max, is expected to debut on the platform next Monday, August 15 – 45 days after it premiered in theaters. But the rep said a max release date for the film has yet to be announced.
The move follows the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery and the creation of a new company, Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year, bringing Max and the Warner Bros. film studio under the same umbrella as streaming service Discovery+, cable networks like Animal Planet and more.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav hinted at the postponement during the company’s conference call last week. He reiterated his commitment to cinemas, saying that an exclusive theatrical release encourages word of mouth for a film to later launch on other platforms.
Zaslav said streaming will be a “key element” of the company’s strategy, but that it doesn’t believe in closing cinema windows and releasing a movie across all platforms at once.
How this differs from HBO Max’s previous film strategy
Zaslav’s vision for Warner Bros. Discovery is a complete departure from the strategy of former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar. Under Kilar, every Warner Bros. film in 2021 was released simultaneously on Max and in theaters.
In 2022, the films were given a 45-day exclusive theatrical run, after which they would premiere on HBO Max. That was still a much shorter window than before the pandemic, when films typically ran in theaters for 75 to 90 days before they were available online.
But that appears to be a thing of the past as the company appears to be embarking on a more traditional film launch: first theaters, then digital rental platforms and home entertainment, and then direct-to-consumer streaming services.
For example, “Elvis” is currently available for $20 on rental platforms such as Prime Video and iTunes. It’s still chugging in theaters, too. And it’s unclear if it’ll be available on Max next week as expected.
Granted, since the company makes decisions on a movie-by-movie basis, some movies might have a shorter window than expected if they don’t do well in theaters.
But all signs point to WB movies being in theaters for as long as possible.
“The Batman.” Warner Bros.
Why Warner Bros. Discovery stays true to the theaters
Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, has made it a priority to repair the relationship between Warner Bros. and theaters, which has been strained by the 2021 simul-release strategy. But industry analysts and even top box office operators admit that most films make the bulk of their money within their first few weekends in theaters.
Personally, I’ve missed “Elvis” in theaters and was expecting to see him on Max next week. I won’t pay $20 for rent when I’m already paying $15 a month for a Max subscription. So I’ll wait.
That’s the scenario that Max subscribers could find themselves in with this and other movies.
Yes, “Elvis” is still showing strong legs in theaters, so the company might see an advantage in extending its Max debut (again, it hasn’t announced a decision yet, but it’s going by the wire).
And making decisions on a movie-by-movie basis doesn’t put the company in a corner when it gets its hands on a blockbuster like Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, which hasn’t shown any signs of slowing at the box office in two months since the premiere.