According to several reports, HBO Max and Discovery+ will merge into a single streaming service owned by Warner Brothers. This shift in streaming strategy has caused the shelving or outright cancellation of movies that were produced exclusively for HBO Max and approved by the previous corporate regime, including the LeBron James-produced “House Party” reboot.
Through his SpringHill Company in partnership with New Line Cinema, Bron and his longtime friend and business partner Maverick Carter announced the film in 2018, under the direction of Grammy Award-winning filmmaker Calmatic.
The remake focused on two high school students who throw a party in James’ house, resulting in the loss of his championship rings. “Atlanta” co-writers Stephen Glover and Jamal Olori were also part of the writing team.
The film, starring Jacob Latimore, Tosin Cole, DC Young Fly, Melvin Gregg, Rotimi and Bill Bellamy, was set to debut on July 28 before it was quietly removed from the release calendar along with other projects.
No word from Warner Brothers on if the film will be released at a later date or if it’s being shelved permanently.
The shift in direction as it relates to streaming is a part of Warner Brothers Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s directive to move away from being heavily invested in streaming and return to big budget theatricals that draw audiences into physical movie theaters. The company cancelled the release of “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” this week which sent shock waves throughout Hollywood.
“This idea of expensive films going direct to streaming — we can’t find an economic case for it, we can’t find an economic value to it, so we’re making a strategic shift,” Zaslav said during the Q2 earnings call Q&A. “We will fully embrace theatrical as we believe that creates interest and demand, provides a great marketing tailwind, and generates word-of-mouth buzz as films transition to streaming and beyond. We have a different view on the wisdom of releasing direct streaming films, and we have taken some aggressive steps to course correct the previous strategy.”
Zaslav’s strategy is likely a response to the financial struggles faced by Netflix. The streaming service’s stock price fell from about $700 to around $220 over the past year, and they’ve lost 200,000 global subscribers as reported in their Q1 earnings call. There is concern in Hollywood over the long-term viability of streaming services amid the looming recession.
Maybe these films will eventually see the light of day, but it’s safe to say that changes are coming for consumers and creatives alike.
Will we return to big-budget theater releases and counting box office numbers? Tough to say given the ease and comfort of streaming from the confines of your own space. But if entities like Warner Brothers force your hand by only releasing in theaters and delaying the streaming release or forcing you to pay to stream outside of a monthly fee, maybe we will all go back.
Regardless, these companies are beholden to their bottom line and their shareholders. They’re going to do whatever best serves those interests, consumers be damned.