Why The HBO Max Day-To-Day Movie Strategy Failed

Last December, WarnerMedia made a game-changing announcement that sent shock waves throughout Tinseltown: The studio was planning to release their entire 2021 theatrical line-up on HBO Max. This caused concern for the industry as a whole. Many felt that this would be the beginning of the end for theater chains, as fans would come accustomed to having movies play right inside of their homes. Looking back, this ultimately turned out to be a huge mistake for the company in the long run. Prior to the streaming’s launch last year, it was reported that the company lost over $1 billion due to its dedication to the streaming service. Now this article isn’t going to get into the financial and statics of HBO Max’s loss as it’s clear that WarnerMedia took a huge financial hit due to the fact that none of the movies that were released on HBO Max were stellar hits on the service and box office. This past year, audiences proved that there’s nothing like the theater experience. Sure, most theaters in the country could use an update and the prices could be cheaper, but overall, the day-to-day release strategy failed for multiple reasons.

The biggest is that WarnerMedia essentially turned its back on filmmakers and movie lovers who see the value in the theater experience. In this day and age, there are all kinds of TVs with loud surround speakers that could give that theater quality right inside of your home; however, the environment is simply no match for experiencing a feature film in theaters. To be in a place where crowds gather to witness something akin to a music concert: The atmosphere, the majesty, the roar of the crowd whose emotional reaction can enhance your movie-going experience. You simply can’t get that in your living room. That’s why movies like Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune, or Mortal Kombat did relatively well in theaters. Those movies are visual spectacles that demand to be seen in theaters.

However, it isn’t just the fact that the movie-going experience is vastly different, but HBO Max doesn’t really have much to offer. Granted, they have a tremendous movie selection, but audiences don’t particularly get a streaming service just for movies. It’s about the entire original content. You can see Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune, or The Matrix Resurrections anywhere thanks to Blu-Ray, iTunes, Amazon, or whenever you purchase a digital copy of films, but outside of their movie spectrum HBO Max doesn’t particularly have must see original content. The reason Netflix became such a powerhouse is due to their string of original content that was sparking a lot of chatter. House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things, and the list continues on from there. Netflix continues to dominate because they make sure to update their catalog weekly with loads of original material. Granted, a lot of that material turns out to be crap like Tall Girl or The Kissing Booth, but even those films have a section of fans. WarnerMedia is making a mistake by not truly capitalizing on their DC universe and experimenting with their rich array of heroes and villains.  Disney plus is wisely investing in their Marvel and Star Wars properties and the service has managed to introduce some of the most original and innovative content that helped evolve the television landscape.

I know that HBO Max has original stuff like Titans, Harley Quinn, and Doom Patrol, but none of those shows have generated much buzz because they don’t particularly standout in the way WandaVision or Loki did. Plus, there’s no ties to their movie counterparts. That’s also the big advantage that Marvel and Star Wars have. Everything is connected, so to many fans, those shows are a must watch because they’re an important piece of a larger puzzle. You’re never going to see anyone from Titans or Doom Patrol pop up in The Batman or Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom. Movies like Zack Synder’s Justice League or The Suicide Squad may have garnered interest in new subscribers, but once their highly anticipated pic is gone from the streaming service then people opted to bail from HBO Max altogether because there was nothing to keep them there. It doesn’t help that the subscription is a pricey $14.99. Plus, the streaming market is now a crowded place. The key for HBO Max is to continue building their brand with original content. They don’t have to build an entire universe like Marvel or Star Wars, but they need to give audiences a reason to stay. Doing day-to-day movie releases just wasn’t the answer. It may have gotten them temporary subscribers, but it was never going to be a long-term solution.

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