Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment
About a year into its life as a streaming service, HBO Max has had some high highs and some low lows. Its launch was famously a bit of a mess, as it originally was unavailable on Roku and Amazon Firestick. Several of the titles that were intended to be released upon the service’s launch – including a documentary on Anthony Bourdain and a long-awaited Friends cast reunion show – still haven’t been released. And director Christopher Nolan loudly proclaimed it to be the “worst streaming service” when tensions were high over WB’s plans to release new films directly to the service.
Still, HBO Max has seemingly weathered all of those storms pretty well – the service is now available on Roku and Firestick; those forthcoming titles remain to be eagerly anticipated; and the direct rollout of new titles has actually worked pretty well. Judas and the Black Messiah was originally released on Max and it secured an Oscar nomination for Best Picture as well as a win for Daniel Kanluuya in the Oscar’s Best Supporting Actor Category. Godzilla v Kong still managed to earn over $400 million at the global box office, including $93 million stateside, despite its simultaneous release on Max and in theaters. And the plan saved us all the time, money and hassle of seeing the disappointing Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters by letting us watch, or in my wife’s case, stop watching, it at home instead.
But in addition to all of that, HBO Max’s bench is deep. It has stirring, groundbreaking originals such as It’s a Sin and Generation. It has a collection of movies – from Kill Bill to Blade Runner and from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Goodfellas. Its inclusion of Turner Classic Movies, Studio Ghibli and the entire HBO back library has made it probably the richest library of all the streaming options, and I know for me it has become my first line of perusing when I’m looking for a movie or show to watch.
HBO Max had its rollout compare to the nightmare rollout of Quibi, but while Quibi died a swift death to the internet graveyard, HBO Max has proved to be a juggernaut that really does seem poised to rival Netflix and Hulu for the foreseeable future.
I’m Evan Rook