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Grab Your Popcorn: HBO Is Keeping Theaters Alive

Published on February 8, 2021, at 5 p.m.
by Rachel Fuller.

The popular streaming service HBO Max decided to release its 2021 features on both its streaming site and in theaters. Starting with the release of Christmas Day blockbuster “Wonder Woman 1984,” each new movie release will drop on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters.

Photo by Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash

Here’s the catch: Each new release will only be available for initial streaming for one month. After this month, the movies will leave HBO Max and rely on theater viewing until their runs are up and they can return to the streaming service permanently.

HBO was faced with a crisis after the end of one of its most popular original series. “Game of Thrones” ran for seven years on television, enthralling viewers with its graphic and candid fantasy. According to a review of TV networks conducted by Variety, after the controversial ending of “Game of Thrones,” HBO lost a whopping 51% of its 18-to-49-year-old demographic.

This blow in 2019 was hard enough, but add a pandemic to the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

HBO reevaluated its priorities. How can a company come back from one blow only to find the rug pulled out from under it in a global pandemic? This challenge was truly a test of consumer relations.

The entertainment industry is a tricky place, especially with the divide between stream-happy Generation Z and avid theatergoers of the older generations. HBO needed to bridge the gap and think about the safety of its consumers. The streaming service is making it work by prioritizing consumer relations and understanding what its subscribers value and need in unprecedented times.

Photo by Mi Yeoun Jun on Unsplash

HBO, like many Americans, doesn’t want to lose the quintessential experience of going to the movies. The ritual of the movies is a rite of passage, letting you suspend your disbelief for two hours — a concept that’s hard to practice in your living room. The smell of popcorn, the plush seats and the booming surround sound can be imitated but never replaced. HBO makes its movies for the big screen.

HBO miniseries, like “Chernobyl” and “Watchmen,” are made to be easily binge-watched at home. Don’t get me wrong; these miniseries are fantastic and have a production value that can fool you into thinking you’re really there. The challenge comes in when you have a film like “Godzilla vs. Kong,” and you’re trying to follow along on a tiny laptop screen.

COVID-19 threw the entertainment industry for a loop, but HBO overcame the challenge and is using this hybrid stream/theater strategy to retain and build its consumer relationships. By adjusting its business model to appeal to the largest audience possible and prioritizing safety, HBO is making progress toward a sense of normalcy in a world that desperately needs it.

For those who need the safety and social distance of their own homes, HBO has your back. For those who are willing to mask up to keep theaters up and running, I’ll see you at the movies.

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