HBO Max is on a roll! After landing the Gerard Butler disaster flick GREENLAND in a massive $20-30 million deal when STX decided to skip a theatrical release, the streamer has landed an even higher profile film in Robert Zemeckis‘ take on Roald Dahl‘s THE WITCHES. The film was set for an October theatrical release but will now make its debut on HBO MAX on October 22, 2020.
HBO Max has seen a perfect marketing opportunity and has positioned the film as a Halloween season event programming for their platform. The movie was originally set to open on October 16, 2020, before being moved up to October 9, 2020. It was back in June when the film was completely taken off the release schedule due to the ongoing global pandemic which has tainted the theatrical release of many high-profile films.
Even though exhibitors need theatrical releases to stay afloat during this truly unprecedented time, some studios just don’t want to risk throwing expensive films out into a climate where they may crash and burn because some markets aren’t open to house their releases in their theaters or, if they are open, they’re operating at a limited capacity. Getting a release like THE WITCHES is a major get for HBO Max, especially in the ever-growing streaming wars where Netflix is still clearly king but other platforms are starting to bite at its toes a bit. By the way, THE WITCHES won’t skip theaters entirely, at least internationally. The film is still set for an overseas rollout since moviegoing on the international front is thriving a bit more than it is in the States at the moment.
Based on Dahl’s 1983 book, the movie is described as a reimagining of Dahl’s story for modern audiences and, according to the studio, is a “darkly humorous and heartwarming tale of a young orphaned boy who, in late 1967, goes to live with his loving Grandma in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis.â?¯ As the boy and his grandmother encounter some deceptively glamorous but thoroughly diabolical witches, she wisely whisks our young hero away to an opulent seaside resort.â?¯ Regrettably, they arrive at precisely the same time that the world’s Grand High Witch has gathered her fellow cronies from around the globe—undercover—to carry out her nefarious plans.” The story was previously adapted in 1990 in a feature that starred Anjelica Houston and Rowan Atkinson. The new version stars Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Kristin Chenoweth, Jahzir Bruno, and Codie-Lei Eastick with adult narration by Chris Rock. Zemeckis, who is at the helm, also co-wrote the script with Kenya Barris and Guillermo del Toro.
Was this release strategy the right move for THE WITCHES?