News surrounding the recently announced merger of HBO Max and Discovery+ has produced a number of strategic shifts, from cancellations to ad-supported platforms, leaving customers wondering where streamers’ limbo is. According to Decider, the notoriously movie-friendly HBO Max streamer is making some big changes when it comes to what movies will be released and when. Following the second quarter earnings call on August 4, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery David Zaslav confirmed the company’s shift from the “Project Popcorn” era to a “case-by-case basis” when determining which movies will be available to subscribers.
Following HBO Max’s profitable subscriber surge after what they internally called “Project Popcorn,” Zaslav is once again swinging his metaphorical ax to cut subscribers’ access to movies on their knees, all in the name of of its “strategic change”. This project was a concept of the former CEO of Warner Media Jason Kilar who has seen the entire list of Warner Bros. movies. 2021 simultaneously flood the streaming service, along with subscribers enjoying movies after just a 45-day movie window in 2022. After HBO Max’s delayed launch in 2020, Kilar’s methods proved lucrative, boosting the service. global subscribers to 73.8 million by the end of 2021, including 11 million that year alone. During the August 4 second quarter call, Warner Bros. Recently merged Discovery (which offers both HBO Max and Discovery+) had 92.1 million subscribers, with no idea how many HBO Max has gained since 2021 alone.
Under Project Popcorn, fans were aware of blockbusters like The Batmanfeaturing Robert Pattinsonand Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets just 45 days after their theatrical release. With an HBO Max subscription, HBO Max Originals, including the now infamous bat girl, were promised to their subscribers under Kilar. Without wasting any time, a number of exclusive HBO Max Originals have quietly disappeared from the streaming service, are no longer available to subscribers for a monthly fee, but are available for an additional fee to purchase or rent. Under this new regime, Baz Luhrmannis a $200 million+ blockbuster Elvis HBO Max will no longer be honored in the coming week as previously planned, although a WBD source assures the film will eventually make it to the streamer – but no word when.
During the Q2 call, Zaslav said:
“This idea of expensive movies going straight to streaming, we can’t find any economic justification for it. […] We are making a strategic shift. As part of this, we have been in town to talk about our commitment to theatrical exhibition and theatrical showcase. A number of films will launch with shorter windows.”
Following the pandemic, cinema has seen a huge pivot in terms of consumers and their interaction with theatrical releases, and the industry has made a number of strides to restore Hollywood’s iron fist. While some directors make intentional efforts to get their movies on screen eyeglasses through the use of IMAX and cinematic nostalgia, others are taking their business elsewhere and demanding a 100-day theatrical release window or no dice. Given the latter’s direct malice towards HBO Max, in which the director Christopher Nolan, in its infinite richness and wisdom, declared them “the worst streaming service”, it seems those words were taken to heart. For subscribers, this means more important changes to come.
While the main draw of HBO Max was the fast turnaround time for big blockbusters and HBO Originals like An American pickle with Seth Rogen, it looks like the service will reduce both. During the earnings call, Zaslav didn’t reveal whether any originals like the 1990s New Line reimagining house partyfeaturing Jacob Latimore, (which has also been quietly removed from its airing schedule) is said to be something the service continues to produce. Likewise, the future of brands like Studio Ghibli, TCM, Criterion, and Crunchyroll is now also up in the air, as the CEO’s presentation did not mention them under its streamer umbrella.