How Long Will HBO Max Continue to Stream Brand-New Movies Directly From Theaters?

It goes without saying that the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic wreaked havoc on movie theaters. A popular agreement between the movie industry and streaming services like HBO Max was to release movies in theaters, once they reopened, and on the streaming service at the same time allowing people to choose between the theater experience or enjoyment at home.

HBO Max logo on a phone screen
HBO logo photo | Photo Illustration by Soumyabrata Roy/Getty Images

HBO Max definitely jumped on this opportunity and saw success with some popular movies over the last year. The question is how long will new movies be available online as well as the theaters. 

Movies released on streaming and in theaters

It was a shock to the movie industry when Warner Brothers announced in late 2020 that all their 2021 productions would be released on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously. This business model is called the day-and-date release strategy.

This provides audiences the choice between enjoying a movie on their comfy couch at home or with the big screen at a movie theater. The simultaneous release was for 30 days only at which point it would leave the streaming platform and then follow the more traditional release schedule (Digital HD, Blue-Ray, and DVD). 

Collider listed the movies planned to be released on HBO Max and in theaters in 2021. Here are a few notable mentions: 

  • Tom & Jerry, February 2021
  • Godzilla vs. Kong, March 2021
  • Mortal Kombat, April 2021
  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, June 2021
  • In The Heights, June 2021
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy, July 2021
  • The Suicide Squad, August 2021
  • Reminiscence, September 2021
  • Dune, October 2021
  • Matrix 4, December 2021

How well is the day-and-date release model working?   

The day-and-date release model was a good idea considering the impact of a global pandemic. Being able to watch new movies in the safety of your home helped create at least some level of normalcy for those who chose to not visit theaters. It was the perfect model for this season. However, TechRadar points out that this model will not work for the long haul. 

Suicide Squad was one of the most anticipated movies of 2021. However, the box office performance of this $185 million film was underwhelming with just $26.5 million in the US and $72.2 million worldwide. It was very popular on the HBO Max streaming platform, but such popularity is just not enough to justify the huge budget. 

The director of the upcoming Dune, Denis Villeneuve said, “I want the audience to understand that streaming alone can’t sustain the film industry as we knew it before Covid.” While Suicide Squad had a less than stellar debut, other movies did quite well with the streaming strategy.

Mortal Kombat, for example, is the most popular movie to come to HBO Max with the day-and-date model. It even attracted a larger audience than the much larger Suicide Squad as well as others like Godzilla vs. Kong and Wonder Woman 1984.

Why is Mortal Kombat different? It is a smaller-budget movie. With a smaller budget of only $55 million, it is a much smaller gamble than huge blockbuster films. The smaller size budget works much better for being sustained by a streaming platform and then any money made at the box office is a bonus.  

If the day-and-date model is not sustainable, what is the alternative? 

HBO Max cuts deal with Warner Brothers  

The Verge announced that AMC and Warner Bros. have made a deal to have their movies stay exclusive to their theaters for 45 days before going to HBO Max. That gives just over six weeks for audiences to enjoy the movies on the big screen first. If you still like the simultaneous release of your favorite movies you can still enjoy them at home for the remainder of 2021 as the new 45-day release deal takes effect in 2022.

It is probably a good thing that movies will debut in the theaters soon because there are plenty of people in the industry who are mad about the day-and-date model. In fact, Christopher Nolan of Inception and Tenet basically said it would be the end of cinema.

Some movies are created for the big screen and sound capabilities of theaters, not living rooms. Actors depend on the income brought in from the box office. Many of them are also very angry with same-day streaming. 

Movie studios were forced to pivot during an emergency in order to stay open, and they brought new movies to our living rooms as we stayed home. As time marches on and audiences are leaving their living rooms, it appears same-day streaming is coming to end. 

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