October 24, 2021

Fun Girls

Shopping & Women Not Included

Um no, Black Widow isn’t streaming on HBO Max, sorry

4 min read

HBO Max streams new movies from Warner Bros. the same day they’re released in theaters. 


Angela Lang/CNET

This year, all year, HBO Max is streaming new, theatrically released movies at no extra charge the same day each film hits US cinemas. But this weekend’s biggest release — Marvel’s Black Widow — won’t be there. Marvel movies are, of course, Disney joints, so Disney Plus is the service streaming Black Widow starting early Friday (for an extra fee). 

That’s because HBO Max is streaming only Warner Bros. movies same day. Disney may have some of the best brand awareness for its films, but many casual fans don’t keep track of what studio releases what movie, even for blockbuster ones like Marvel’s.

HBO Max made waves last year when it announced it would stream new, theatrically released movies at no extra charge the same day each film hits US cinemas in 2021 if they’re distributed by the studio Warner Bros. That means every Warner Bros. movie this year will be released both on HBO Max and in cinemas at the same time, including Space Jam: A New LegacyThe Suicide SquadDune and The Matrix 4 to come.

But it also means movies from any other studio won’t.

This so-called hybrid release strategy for Warner Bros. and HBO Max is unprecedented, but it’s also sparking some misguided hope among moviegoers when any new movie hits theaters. Without knowing the studio distributing that new flick, lots of people get curious that maybe it’s one of the movies available on HBO Max too. 

Warner Bros. movies have the direct pipeline to Max because HBO Max and Warner Bros. are both owned and operated by AT&T‘s WarnerMedia. They’re siblings, essentially.

But it’s worth noting that this hybrid strategy is unique to Warner Bros. and HBO. No other Hollywood studios are being this aggressive in putting this many movies (including megabudget blockbusters) on a streaming service immediately at no extra charge. 

The hybrid release strategy is so aggressive, in fact, that WarnerMedia is ending it after 2021. Starting in 2022, Warner Bros. movies are expected to have a window of time exclusively in theaters before moving to other formats like online rentals and HBO Max. However, that theatrical window will be much shorter than it was before the pandemic. 

Is Black Widow on HBO Max? 

Nope. Starting Friday at midnight PT/3 a.m. ET, Black Widow will be available only on Disney Plus for subscribers through its Premier Access model, which requires an extra $30 payment on top of the regular price of a Disney Plus subscription. 

Is Fast and Furious 9 on HBO Max? 

No, not yet. 

F9, also known as Fast 9 or The Fast and the Furious 9, is distributed by Universal. It’s only available in theaters, but it’s also set to stream on HBO Max eventually, just not until late this year or early next. 

HBO has what’s known as a pay-one licensing deal with Universal, which means HBO is the first place Universal’s movies are shown on TV or streaming services. But F9 won’t reach HBO and HBO Max until after the film has already been available first in theaters, then as an online rental and finally on Blu-ray and DVD for sale. Typically, these pay-one movies tend to be released to streaming about nine months after theatrical release, but no date for F9 has been announced yet. Regardless, it means HBO Max is on track to get F9 to stream first before any other services, likely late this year or sometime early next.

What about Boss Baby 2? 

Nope, but it’s available to stream elsewhere. DreamWorks Animation, maker of the sequel, and streaming service Peacock are both owned by Comcast, which is making the movie available on Peacock at the same time it’s in theaters. It’s on either of Peacock’s premium, paid tiers, so either the $5- and $10-a-month tiers have The Boss Baby: Family Business available to stream at no added cost. 

Anyone who watches Peacock on a free membership can’t stream Boss Baby 2; you’ll need to upgrade to a premium account. 

OK, so what new movies can I stream on HBO Max while they’re in theaters? 

All these titles will be available on HBO Max the same day they hit US theaters. 

Generally, most of the new Warner Bros. movies become available to stream on Max at 12:01 a.m. PT/3:01 a.m. ET on the day of their release. But the timing for other movies may vary, depending on when the first cinematic screenings take place at theaters. Wonder Woman 1984, for example, became available at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET on Dec. 25 because that was the earliest theaters were open that day. 

The movies will be available to stream on HBO Max for 31 days. They’re generally expected to be removed from the service at 11:59 p.m. PT on that 31st day. 


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