Warner Bros. Quietly Exits 45-Day HBO Max Mandate for Theatrical Releases

With media giant Warner Bros. Discovery looking to realize its self-imposed $3 billion in cost synergies following Discovery’s $43 billion operational control acquisition of erstwhile WarnerMedia from AT&T, Warner Bros. Pictures’ recent policy to release its theatrical movies on the HBO Max streaming platform within 45 days of their box office debut is reportedly being revisited.

The move follows Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s comments on the Aug. 4 financial call that brought into question the studio’s production of direct-to-streaming movies and other over-the-top video priorities enacted by former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

Zaslav questioned producing movies specifically for streaming, contending the legacy theatrical window remains the best way to market a feature film across the distribution food chain, including home entertainment.

Despite Discovery+ and HBO Max ending the recent fiscal quarter with 92.1 million combined subscribers, Zaslav said he believes that releasing direct-to-streaming studio movies, regardless how often consumers frequent the platform, is no comparison to the theatrical window.

“So, this idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it,” Zaslav said. “We can’t find an economic value for it.”

As a result, the studio’s recent Elvis musical biopic remans in theaters (another $3.9 million in ticket sales through Aug. 7), for premium VOD rent ($19.99) and $24.99 pre-order purchase on select digital retail platforms — and not on HBO Max.

“If we can monetize better by having another window before it goes to HBO Max, we may do that,” a studio spokesperson told The Wrap. “We’ve committed to [the] 45-day window for theatrical, but we will experiment if there are windows along the way before it gets to a streaming service.”

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