Warner Bros. films will no longer be available on HBO Max 45 days after their release in theaters. Instead, each film released will come to streaming on a “case-by-case basis.“

Over the course of the pandemic, HBO Max won many subscribers by premiering movies like Dune and The Matrix Resurrections the same day they debuted in theaters, or by adding them to the service 45 days after the beginning of their theatrical run. That's not the case now. Following Warner Bros. acquisition by Discovery, we've seen some pretty massive changes to the company, but also in HBO Max in particular. Those changes will continue.

The merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery has had many unforeseen consequences, from the cancellation of Batgirl to the upcoming HBO Max-Discovery+ streaming service combo. One of the most significant changes has also been the death of “Project Popcorn,” an initiative started by the previous Warner Bros. regime, mainly to offset the Covid-19 pandemic’s ravaging of movie theaters.

Since people couldn’t go out to the movies, and for a long time were hesitant to do so despite some theaters reopening, Warner Bros. decided to post its movies on their streaming platform. The model worked really well for a while, with movies being released immediately. After a while, the model shifted towards letting movies run in theaters for just 45 days — far less than had been standard prior to the pandemic. Now, that whole model has been tossed by the wayside as well.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

That leaves the streaming releases of new and upcomingWarner Bros. films completely up in the air. Baz Luhrmann's Elvis was supposed to go to HBO Max 45 days after release, but given the new format, it’s unclear if that will still happen. During a recent earnings call, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav spoke a little bit more about the new model, saying “This idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We’re making a strategic shift. As part of that, we’ve been out in the town talking about our commitment to the theatrical exhibition and the theatrical window. A number of movies will be launched with shorter windows.”

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