HBO Max may have instantly brought theatrical releases to streaming, or at least gave them very short theater-only windows. But don’t expect Max to have the same kind of policies. Speaking at CinemaCon, David Zaslav made it very clear that Warner Bros. Discovery and its new platform Max do not believe in straight-to-streaming movie releases.
In fact, Zaslav directly noted, “We do not believe in streaming movies… Movies [in theaters] perform substantially better when we bring them to HBO Max than any of the direct-to-streaming movies. We said it nine months ago, and we said it six months ago. We have never felt stronger about it.”
In addition, the Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive spoke about the company’s feelings on the theater-to-streaming transition for movies. He noted, “At Warner Bros., at DC Studios… We believe in full windowing of the motion pictures. We do not want to do direct-to-streaming movies. We’re in no rush to bring the movie to Max.”
Of course, the audience at CinemaCon would respond to these statements favorably. But what about Warner Bros. Discovery’s movie-loving audiences? Between the ease of streaming and the COVID-19 pandemic, the landscape of the movie theater has changed dramatically for Warner Bros. movies and for all others. For many, a quick release on streaming is the optimal way to view a new and anticipated movie. The arrival of new hits on HBO Max was a welcome one on many levels. This is not to say that movie theaters don’t provide a singular experience worth protecting. But there are many variables to consider. So far, Warner Bros. Discovery has faced a lot of scrutiny as it specified its offerings and made changes to familiar platforms. We’ll have to see how their audiences react to this pronouncement about the future of its upcoming movies.