Did HBO Max's Bold Streaming Move of Day-and-Date Movies Work?

'The Matrix'Credit: Warner Bros.
HBO Max made a lot of filmmakers upset—and made a lot of money. 

The big bet this year was from Warner Bros., whose parent company AT&T forced the company's hand and made them go day-and-date with all their 2021 releases on HBO Max.

The bet was based on the pandemic driving box office numbers down and the need for them to drive HBO Max subscribers up. At the time, filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve were very upset. And rightfully so, as this decision was made without filmmakers' input and was not about the movies, but about the bottom line.

Still, they made the bet because they were confident in the results. Turns out, they were mostly right. 

'Godzilla vs. Kong'Credit: Warner Bros.
While we cannot track which filmmakers are likely to avoid WB because of the decision and the possibility of it happening again, what can be tracked is the boom for HBO Max.

According to Wired, "HBO and HBO Max had about 61 million subscribers worldwide. Today, that number is closer to 70 million. (For context, Netflix has somewhere near 214 million subscribers)."

That kind of boost in only a year is incredible for them. But not all of this came from just making movies accessible at home. 

HBO Max also allows for variable pay structures, with a $10 option supported by ads, and $15, making it attractive for people on a budget. They're also prioritizing shows like a Game of Thrones spinoff and other star-driven ideas that run the gamut from reality to comedy to drama. So this all sounds like it works.

But will it continue to work? HBO Max has shifted movies back to theaters but will have a 45-day wait period. So a movie will come out in theaters, and then 45 days later, be on their app. That should keep people enticed, and with the new Game of Thrones spinoff coming, their numbers should stay strong. 

We're going to find out if this is paying off in real-time next year as people get back to theaters and we track how many subscribers HBO Max gets as the year progresses. The streaming war is definitely on, and HBO Max's huge gamble seems to have put them in a good place for continued success.

Let us know what you think in the comments.      

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Your Comment


I, for one, was thrilled at being able to watch new releases at home without having to put the health, safety, and lives of my loved ones at risk by venturing out to the cinemas, especially since the only people going at that point were pandemic deniers who couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves.

After we all got vaccinated, we finally started to return to cinema viewing this October, albeit after a week or two for the crowds to die down. I think HBO made the right decision, but it was a terrible professional move to blindside the filmmakers the way they did.

December 22, 2021 at 11:45PM, Edited December 22, 11:47PM

David Patrick Raines

I think it was an interesting idea to make the most of a bad situation. The corporate climate of WB post ATT merger is much more big picture now. If HBO Max got 10 million more subscribers in part due to the dumping of theatrical films to premiere day and date on HBO Max as well as the theaters, then it probably paid for the "experiment" in just six months. The bigger question is if HBO Max can retain and grow once they no longer are doing simultaneous releases of WB films. I don't think HBO Max will have any issues growing in the future.

December 25, 2021 at 4:37AM

Film Voltage

This article is sad to read now. HBO is dead. Or dying. Let's say dying.

August 19, 2022 at 11:50AM