An already fuzzy streaming situation is about to get a little more complicated, at least for the next year. HBO Max and Disney have readjusted a streaming contract that deals with the rights of all 20th Century Studios releases. 20th Century Studios, formerly known as 20th Century Fox, had a deal in place that saw all of its theatrical releases go to HBO for their first-run TV and streaming rights. That contract runs through 2022 but Disney and WarnerMedia reworked the final year of the deal, allowing the companies to share streaming rights.
For the next year, 20th Century Studios theatrical releases will appear on HBO Max and one of Disney's streaming services at the same time. Following a 20th Century film's exclusive theatrical window, which now lasts just 45 days, the film will be eligible to for on-demand platforms as well as streaming services. When it goes to either Disney+ or Hulu, it will be added to HBO Max the same day.
This new deal begins with Ron's Gone Wrong, the new animated film that hit theaters in October. Given its family status, Ron's Gone Wrong will be heading to Disney+ instead of Hulu on December 15, and it will also be made available on HBO Max simultaneously. This new version of the contract will see it through its original 2022 date, but Variety reports that there won't be another deal after that. Disney plans to make all 20th Century movies available exclusively on its two streaming services beginning in 2023.
It's worth noting that this deal doesn't apply to all Disney-owned studios. Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, and Pixar films will all still stream exclusively on Disney+. Some of the more adult fare released by 20th Century Studios, like the upcoming film The King's Man, will likely find a home at Hulu. Disney has been adamant about keeping Disney+ a family-friendly entertainment destination. That's why films like Deadpool still haven't been added to the lineup, despite its Marvel connections and massive popularity.
There are some 20th Century productions that are being released exclusively on Hulu, skipping theaters altogether. Prey, the upcoming Predator prequel, falls in that category. In those situations, the HBO Max deal won't apply, and Hulu will be the sole streaming distributor.
The highly anticipated Avatar sequel from James Cameron arrives in theaters in December 2022, so it will likely be the last film added to HBO Max as part of the existing deal.