Hot on the heels of HBO Max’s big debut and the announcement that Zack Snyder’s Justice League will hit the platform in 2021, it looks as though the new streamer is already losing a number of major DC movies. This isn’t something that’s happening months down the road, but rather on July 1st, roughly one month after the service first launched.
The news comes from ComicBook.com with the outlet confirming that a number of live-action DC films are temporarily being removed from HBO Max in July. Those titles include Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Catwoman, Jonah Hex, and The Losers. So come July 1st, the only live-action DC films that will be left to watch are Aquaman, Shazam!, Joker, Green Lantern, and Supergirl. An HBO Max spokesperson told the outlet, “We have a collection of DC films that will rotate on the platform. We have a new batch coming in July and then another batch coming in August.”
Why exactly is this happening? There’s no official word on the matter from HBO Max beyond that one sentence statement, but it does seem like a very strange and unfortunate decision to lose some of your hottest films a mere month after launch day, especially when the streamer didn’t get off to the best start.
The “streaming wars” is still a fairly new thing and even though the folks at Disney+, HBO Max and then some do have the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu blueprints to work with, they’re bound to be some hiccups and necessary adjustments along the way. In fact, Disney+ experienced a similar issue when a bunch of hot titles like Home Alone and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides suddenly vanished from its menu back in January. At the time, a Disney+ spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo that that happened due to pre-existing legacy agreements and that those movies will return when the deals expire.
We don’t know for sure if HBO Max is in a similar position with these DC Films, but it does seem likely. Would that mean this rotating strategy would end once the deals expire and then films like Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad would move over to HBO Max permanently? Perhaps, but again, navigating the streaming battleground right now is a little challenging due to changing times and overlapping strategies. When all of this first began, the surface level mentality was that all of the studios would just create streaming services of their own and get all of their films back. Perhaps that really is the endgame for everyone, but this rotating library can’t change until these licensing deals run their course. And some of them are quite long, like the Disney and Netflix deal, for example. That reportedly requires that every Disney film released between January 2016 and December 2018 would return to Netflix in 2026.
It’s also essential to point out that, in a sense, HBO Max is the streaming extension of HBO. These films were likely part of HBO’s rotating library, which of course, changes from month to month. So when HBO Max launched, these films were billed as being part of HBO Max when, in fact, they were tied to existing deals that HBO had set up. So while those movies were put under the “DC Films on HBO Max” banner, that didn’t mean they were movies acquired specifically for the streaming service. What that could mean going forward is that the films might come back to HBO Max and leave again before those deals that HBO set up run out, and then they can remain on HBO Max in perpetuity.
One way or the other though, it’s got to be a big bummer for anyone out there who signed up for HBO Max under the impression that they could watch all of the new DC live-action films they want, whenever they want. We’re talking about a streaming service with 10,000 hours worth of content here so there’s loads more to watch and discover, but these movies are some of Warner Bros’ biggest moneymakers in recent years with a huge and very dedicated fandom behind them. Yes, apparently there will be new films added in July, but having this gaping hole in the line-up of the new DC film franchise this early on isn’t the best look.