HBO Max has a trump card in the streaming wars: The Snyder Cut

Release it.


Controversy creates cash. It’s a simple, undeniable adage in the business world. It may be pertinent to amend it as saying that the right kind of controversy creates cash, but the point stands. In competitive, crowded fields like entertainment, the loudest movie, TV show, or cough cough streaming platform is often the one that wins. And with the streaming wars (begun, they have) upon us, our various competitors are going to need all the attention they can get.

Netflix stands as a sort of reliable bastion of the Old Guard of streaming in the current landscape, an essential tool in any consumer’s media lineup. Of the new upstarts, it’s hard to count anything but Disney+ as the hottest up-and-comer — you can’t beat Star Wars and every single MCU and Pixar movie. With the juggernauts seemingly secure in their positions, other platforms like NBC’s Peacock, Apple TV, and even HBO Max have their work cut out for them. How does a new streaming service stand out in such a stacked field?

'Justice League' (2017)

Warner Bros.

By bringing out the biggest properties they have, that’s how. And based on yesterday’s reveal event, HBO Max is no slouch. From new TV shows to the reliable branding of HBO as the home of the best television on the planet to the full DC film lineup, it’s going to be a hard platform to argue with. Still, there’s something missing. Game of Thrones is long over and while House of the Dragon and a Greg Berlanti-produced Green Lantern series will be coming to the platform eventually, there are no real big draws here outside of a deeper Warner Bros-centric streaming catalogue to draw viewers in.

The thing is, there could be. HBO Max does technically have access to a much-hyped film with a massive cult following, despite that film having never been released. It’s a film that has garnered a great deal of controversy in the years since its production and the sort of thing that would generate massive headlines both upon announcement and release.

HBO Max should release the Snyder Cut.

'Justice League' (2017)

Warner Bros. Pictures

In order to discuss HBO Max potentially releasing the Snyder Cut we must first operate from a mutual understanding, that being that the Snyder Cut is real — which it is. Snyder himself has posted screencaps, Jason Momoa and Kevin Smith say they’ve seen it, and Junkie XL just this week claimed the score is finished.

Now, the film itself might not be fully finished in its current state. It feels safe to say there are likely many unfinished effect shots and even unfilmed material substituted with storyboards or animatics (Kevin Smith confirmed as much when he discussed watching it). Nonetheless, it’s real. 

The Cult of the Snyder Cut is the stuff of internet legend at this point despite only being active for the last two years or so. There is, hard as it may be for some to believe, a massive and fervent fanbase surrounding the hypothetical film that is desperate to see it to the point that if you look at anything any account related to Warner Bros. tweets at any point in time one of the first responses you’re likely to see is someone tweeting “RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT!”

It’s a hotbed for controversy and its fandom has manifested itself in both ugly ways (a sad little protest outside of the Warner Bros. office building) and pleasant (they’ve raised a ton of money for suicide prevention charities in honor of director Zack Snyder’s daughter, whose suicide played into his decision to step away from the DCEU). They’ve even booked billboard space in Times Square, which is truly putting their money where their mouth is. It is, for better or worse, a force to be reckoned with. 

Today it’s almost impossible to be a part of superhero movie fandom and not at least be tangentially aware of what the Snyder Cut is. To some, it’s a lost gem; to others, a morbid curiosity. For now, it remains unseen by the masses. But HBO Max seems like the perfect platform to debut it on — and the perfect way to generate an absolute hurricane of press for the streaming upstart at launch.

'Justice League' (2017)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Think about it: debuting the Snyder Cut on HBO Max is an extremely cost-effective way for Warner and DC to monetize the controversy surrounding the film. It spares them the price that comes with a theatrical release and takes box office out of consideration (plus, if the film is unfinished, streaming may be the only viable way to release it). Instead, it channels all the free press that comes with the Snyder Cut simply existing in the world into this new streaming service - one that desperately needs something undeniably exciting in order to make sure it stands out among the Hulus and Apple TVs of the streaming world.

Is it a permanent long-term solution? Absolutely not. There’s very much a chance that releasing the Snyder Cut leads only to a bright-burning blip in the press cycle — and the revelation that the Cult of the Cut are an extremely vocal minority whose numbers don’t translate to subscription sales. Plus, with the speed at which pop culture moves these days, they could release the film to great fanfare and interest only for it to be dwarfed by something new and forgotten by the end of the week.

Still, these streaming wars are desperate times. Desperate measures are very much in order and the Snyder Cut is as desperate (or more charitably, bold) a measure as you can get. It might not put HBO Max on par with Disney+ or Netflix but including it in the lineup would give the brand a steady leg up on Peacock, Apple TV, and the rest of what’s shaping up to be a competitive group of second-tier streaming services.

Whether you’d watch the Synder Cut to witness greatness or to see a cinematic train wreck (no judgement either way) it’d be a fascinating move on Warner Bros. part. And right now, that’s exactly what HBO Max needs.

HBO Max launches in May 2020. Darkseid willing, the Snyder Cut will launch with it.

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