Candyman isn’t streaming on HBO Max or Netflix, sorry

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


Angela Lang/CNET

HBO Max has become synonymous with streaming new theatrical movies, thanks to an unprecedented number of films streaming there at no extra cost the same day they hit US cinemas. But this weekend’s biggest movie, the horror sequel Candyman, isn’t available to stream on HBO Max, Netflix or anywhere for that matter. 

That’s because HBO Max is streaming only Warner Bros. movies the same day, and Candyman is distributed by another company. (But Candyman will land at HBO Max, eventually.)

HBO Max made waves last year when it announced that it would stream new, theatrically released movies from Warner Bros. studios at no extra charge the same day they hit the big screen during 2021. That included Godzilla vs. Kong, In the Heights and Space Jam: A New Legacy earlier this year, as well as upcoming releases Dune and The Matrix 4. The latest two WB movies, The Suicide Squad and Reminiscence, are streaming on HBO Max now.  

But it also means movies from any other studio won’t be on Max same day. 

The strategy is causing 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 ones) 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 45-day window 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 Candyman available to stream on HBO Max or Netflix? 

No, Candyman, distributed by Universal, is available only in theaters. 

But 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 they won’t reach HBO and HBO Max until after the films have already been available first in theaters, then as online rentals 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 Candyman has been announced yet. 

Regardless, it means HBO Max is on track to get them to stream first before any other services, sometime next year.

Is Free Guy on Max or anywhere else?

Nope. Because Free Guy is distributed by 20th Century Studios, part of Disney, it’s not destined for Max nor Netflix now or anytime soon. Disney is giving Free Guy 45 days in theaters exclusively starting Aug. 13, so it won’t be available to stream anywhere while it’s in cinemas. 

But the first place you’ll be able to stream Free Guy is likely to be HBO Max, just not for months. Film licensing is complicated, and HBO locked up the rights years ago to be the first place to stream 20th Century movies. HBO Max will be the first streaming service to get Free Guy, because of the pre-existing licensing arrangement, even though Disney owns streaming services Disney Plus and Hulu, and one or both of them may stream Free Guy even later than HBO. 

However, HBO Max isn’t expected to start streaming Free Guy until roughly six to nine months after its theatrical release. 

Will Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings stream anywhere when it hits theaters? 

No. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be available to see only in theaters when it is released this coming Friday. 

Marvel’s Shang-Chi is part of the Disney empire, and during the pandemic, Disney released many of its big movies on Disney Plus. Some, like its latest Pixar movies Luca and Soul, skipped theaters entirely and were available to stream on Disney Plus at no extra cost. Others — like the latest Marvel movie before Shang-Chi, Black Widow — were released in theaters on the same day they became available to stream on Disney Plus for an extra $30 fee; it’s what the service calls Premier Access. 

But Shang-Chi is one of the first movies that Disney is releasing as a theatrical exclusive, the norm for decades before COVID-19 decimated cinema attendance. 

However, Shang-Chi will be available exclusively in theaters for 45 days; that’s a much shorter window compared with pre-pandemic. At that point in mid-October, it’s expected to reach Disney Plus to stream at no added cost, although the company hasn’t given a full-throated confirmation about exactly how Shang-Chi will be released on Disney Plus yet. 

What about other movies out now? Is The Green Knight streaming? Jungle Cruise? Paw Patrol? 

None of those are on Max, but there are ways to stream them. 

The Green Knight is distributed by A24, was a theatrical exclusive for weeks. After streaming a one-night-only virtual screening, it has moved on to online rentals now. It’s unclear when or where it’ll be available to stream with a subscription. 

Jungle Cruise isn’t on Max, but it is available to stream over on Disney Plus. As part of Disney Plus’ Premier Access model, Jungle Cruise (and Black Widow, for that matter) are available for Disney Plus members to stream if they pay an extra $30 fee on top of the regular cost of their subscriptions.  

Paw Patrol: The Movie, from Nickelodeon, is available to stream on Paramount Plus. Unlike most streamings services of its scope, Paramount Plus offers a seven-day free trial for new signups. 

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 theaters in the US. 

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 arrival 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 Suicide Squad is in the same boat, arriving on the service at an atypical time. 

All Warner Bros. movies released in this “hybrid” model on HBO Max will be available to watch in 4K Ultra HD resolution and HDR image quality, even though those formats aren’t yet standard for the full Max library.

Several movies have already come and gone, including Mortal Kombat and Godzilla vs. Kong. But all these Warner Bros. movies will return to HBO Max to stream a few months after their release. Wonder Woman 1984, for example, is back on HBO Max to stream, after it left the service in January during its theatrical window. 

But 2021 is planned to be the only year for this phenomenon of streaming new big-screen movies on HBO Max as soon as they hit theaters. Warner Bros. has said that 10 movies produced by the studio will go directly to HBO Max in 2022, but big franchise movies will have 45 days in theaters exclusively without any streaming option during that time starting next year.

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