News & Opinion

HBO Max Day-and-Date in Jeopardy


Recently, as reported by Collider, WarnerMedia reversed its decision about day-and-date release of the much anticipated Dune movie. Day-and-date means that the movie will appear in the theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service at the same time. The day-and-date announcement, made by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar came as a surprise to many people, even within the company. It was not popular and the secrecy around the announcement left many people feeling slighted. The reversal for Dune comes on the heels of the AT&T announcement to merge WarnerMedia and Discovery. So what does this mean?

Breaking It All Down

The initial plan for day-and-date releases seems to be to pull in as many subscribers to HBO Max as possible. That made sense when we were all stuck home streaming all day. But now that vaccines are more readily available (at least in the US), that seems like a less wonderful plan. People are looking to get back into the world, and, presumably, back into theaters. Pulling the day-and-date release will be a good test for whether or not people are comfortable going back to the theaters.

What is a contributing factor here is that Legendary Pictures financed 75% of Dune. This company has no stake in HBO Max and likely isn’t interested in seeing another of its movies (they also financed 75% of Godzilla vs. Kong) see a day-and-date release.

Plus, it looks like Kilar is on the way out. In a “turnabout is fair play” move, he was left out of the announcement of the WarnerMedia and Discovery merger. This new company will no longer be under the AT&T umbrella (they lost about half the money they paid for WarnerMedia just three years ago). Leadership is still in the air, but there are talks that the former head of Disney+, Kevin Mayer, is up for the job.

The New (Big) Kid on the Block

This sets the stage for a streaming juggernaut that could finally take on Disney+ and Netflix. The combined libraries of WarnerMedia (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, DC) along with their channels (HBO, CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT) with Discovery (HGTV, Animal Planet, Food Network, and TLC) is a lot of desirable content. We expect a new name (looks to be Warner Bros. Discovery) and a lot of excitement. Discovery has a lot of channels with shows that people like to binge-watch. Or just leave on in the background. WarnerMedia has more groundbreaking and bombastic content. Put them together? A lot of people will be interested.

But How Does This Affect Day-and-Date on HBO Max?

Well, you can bet your bottom dollar that any tentpole movie is under review for day-and-date release. If Dune does well? Well, all bets are off. But as the turmoil grows during this merger, expect that more and more movies will see the traditional 45-day theatrical window. If it does poorly? Well, day-and-date might be back on the table. We’ve advocated for day-and-date for a long time. Many of you have systems in your home that rival your local cineplex. Will you go to the theaters for Dune? I’m a Dune fan and I can’t say I will.


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