HBO Max has been on an absolute tear over the past year. How have they been gobbling up so many subscribers? Credit CEO Jason Kilar’s unprecedented call to put all Warner Bros. films on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters. At the time, artists were outraged. But Kilar’s corporate bosses and streaming subscribers reaped the benefits.
A report from the Variety Intelligence Platform illustrates how those movies powered the streamer’s rise. The numbers presented actually beat WarnerMedia’s own internal projections, coming in at 73.8 million subscribers total.
Two movies were greeted by over three million viewers between their release days and Sunday evening: “Godzilla Vs. Kong” and “Mortal Kombat.” Both “The Suicide Squad” and “The Matrix: Resurrections” approached the three million mark, coming in at 2.8 million viewers each.
Others, like “Tom and Jerry” and “Dune” didn’t quite fare so well, with the long-running cartoon’s latest iteration pulling in 1.2 million viewers. The cult classic science fiction property, meanwhile, brought in 1.9 million. “Tom and Jerry” still grabbed $132 million at the box office and “Dune” got some big screen love with $396 million in ticket sales.
WarnerMedia doesn’t release numbers for individual titles. These numbers came by way of SambaTV, a data analytics platform that depends on opted-in users.
This chart shows how HBO Max growth really started clicking in Q4 of 2020, when HBO Max released its first blockbuster on the same day as it hit theaters: “Wonder Woman: 1984.” We’ve seen that the Gal Gadot superhero adventure proved particularly sticky for new subscribers. People who try HBO Max tend to stay a while.
It is unclear how much business WarnerMedia cost itself by effectively cannibalizing its release schedule. There’s also the issue of piracy, which is made easier with 4K copies of the films more easily accessible when added to a streaming service.
The question that remains is if these big-budget productions are best used as draws to streaming platforms or as massive draws in movie theaters. 2022 should help prove that point one way or another, as studios appear to have a string of movies set to land in theaters over the course of the year. Seeing how box office numbers this year match up against streaming services should show if streaming is the new normal, or if it was just a sidebar while potential customers waited out a pandemic.