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‘Real success’ for HBO Max with Warner Bros. releases, says AT&T finance boss

AT&T’s CFO has said that the company’s controversial decision to simultaneously release its Warner Bros. films in cinemas and on SVOD HBO Max has “worked out well for all involved.”

The company’s decision to largely forgo cinemas in 2021, announced in December, was largely panned in the filmmaking community, but Warner’s parent company is happy with the results so far.

Speaking at a virtual Deutsche Bank event, AT&T CFO John Stephens said that the company has seen “not only good viewership of those movies on HBO Max, but engagement that followed… So real success with it so far.”

As part of this strategy, HBO Max has released superhero vehicle Wonder Woman 1984, dreary police procedural The Little Things, family friendly Tom & Jerry and awards favourite Judas and the Black Messiah. Action blockbuster Godzilla vs Kong is next up on March 25. 

Within HBO Max the films are heavily branded as event viewing, with a significant amount of emphasis being placed on their one-month viewing window before they become cinema exclusives.

While Warner Bros. had delayed some films, such as Dune which will now be released in October, Stephens has defended this strategy instead of waiting until cinemas are widely open. He said: “If you just hold all those for later release, you’re going to be in a position where all the studios have been holding movies and the flood at the theaters, even if they’re fully open, would change all the economics anyway.”

High profile 2020 films still awaiting release include Marvel’s Black Widow, and Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond in No Time To Die.

HBO and HBO Max had a combined 41.5 million subscribers at the end of 2020, and AT&T will hope to see an uptick in Max users when it announces its Q1 2021 results in the coming weeks.

HBO Max however has faced ignominy due to a glitch in its system which accidentally leaked the first hour of Zack Snyder’s upcoming four-hour director’s cut of Justice League. A technical error meant that users who tried to watch Tom & Jerry were instead presented with the remade version of 2017’s superhero crossover movie. 

HBO Max issued a statement which acknowledged the glitch: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League was temporarily available on HBO Max and the error was addressed within minutes.”