In a pretty shocking piece of news, Warner Bros. and HBO Max announced today that Robert Zemeckis’ feature film reimagining of the Roald Dahl book The Witches is going to be premiering directly on HBO Max, skipping theaters altogether. As if that wasn’t surprising enough, it’ll be available to stream this month.
Indeed, the Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? filmmaker’s new take on The Witches will be premiering exclusively in the U.S. on HBO Max on October 22nd. The “reimagined” film follows a young boy who stumbles upon a secret coven of witches while vacationing with his grandmother, with whom he must work to stop their evil plan to turn the world’s children into mice.
Those who grew up in the 90s will certainly recall director Nicolas Roeg’s nightmare-inducing 1990 adaptation, which starred Anjelica Huston. This new version has some key differences, though: it takes place in 1960s Alabama and the young boy and his grandmother are now Black.
Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer plays the grandmother in The Witches remake, with Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway filling the role of The Grand High Witch and Stanley Tucci playing the hotel manager Mr. Stringer, a part filled by Rowan Atkinson in the previous film.
This new movie is less a remake of the existing film and more a new adaptation of Dahl’s book, with Zemeckis credited as co-writer alongside black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. As if that wasn’t enough, Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron is onboard as a producer.
So yes, this is a pretty stunning and neat Halloween surprise that Warner Bros. has decided to bestow upon us this Spooky Season. The Witches had previously been scheduled for theatrical release in October 2020, but was subsequently delayed to 2021 after the COVID-19 shutdown threw the theatrical calendar into disarray. For whatever reason, however, Warner Bros. and HBO Max decided it was best to change plans once more and take this one direct to streaming.
Since debuting in May, HBO Max has solidified itself as one of the best streaming services currently available with a robust library of shows and films, especially classic movies that you won’t find on Netflix or Amazon. The Seth Rogen film An American Pickle was the first “HBO Max original film” that was released this summer, but The Witches will hardly be the last. The streaming service will also play host to the four-hour Snyder Cut of Justice League, releasing as a miniseries in 2021.