Will there be original content on HBO Max?
Old movies and TV shows are important to the lifeblood of a new streaming service, but original shows tend to be what can make or break one of these companies. It's hard to imagine Netflix being in its current position without the success of House of Cards. Obviously, WarnerMedia is making some pretty big investments in original shows and movies, hoping to compete with the near constant flow of streaming options and cable shows.
As part of its initial strategy, HBO Max has announced movie deals with two established producers: Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon. Berlanti, the super-producer behind the CW's ever-expanding slate of superhero dramas, will produce "four movies in the young-adult genre." Witherspoon, who currently produces and stars in Big Little Lies for HBO, will produce "at least two films" for the service through her Hello Sunshine production company.
In September, WarnerMedia also struck a huge deal with Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams' production company, to produce and develop television shows, movies, and games. The agreement is set to run through 2024, and while financial details weren't disclosed, sources estimated costs to have been around $500 million. Under the deal, Bad Robot will create programming for all WarnerMedia television properties, including HBO Max. The first of those series is a dramedy from TVLine co-founder Michael Ausiello titled Drama Queen, which draws upon Ausiello's childhood.
Talk show mogul Ellen DeGeneres also entered a partnership with the streaming service and is set to bring four original series to HBO Max. Three have been ordered straight to series: there's Ellen's Home Design Challenge, in which Ellen will give a group of "forward-thinking designers" the chance to flex their imaginations while providing "humorous, colorful commentary;" Little Ellen, an animated children's series about seven-year-old Ellen living in New Orleans; and First Dates Hotel, an unscripted reality dating series based off of the UK format of the same name. A documentary series called Finding Einstein is currently in development and will set out to "celebrate and support a fresh generation of Einsteins."
Then there's the other TV projects: back in June, WarnerMedia announced Dune: The Sisterhood, a spinoff of the upcoming science-fiction blockbuster based on Frank Herbert's classic genre novel. The female-focused series will feature a pilot directed by the movie's director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) and written by Jon Spaihts (Passengers). Expect it to be big, expensive, and probably pretty weird. There's also Generations, a Lena Dunham-produced teen dramedy starring Detective Pikachu's Justice Smith.
There are also a few unscripted titles in the works: in September, HBO Max ordered two unscripted series titled Legendary and The Greatest Space for 10 episodes each. Legendary is all about voguing -- dancers will battle on teams called "houses," which are comprised of five performers and a house parent. The Greatest Space is a design competition show: pairs of professional interior designers will travel around to world to revamp spaces "from ballrooms to bedrooms."
The rest of the announced titles are similarly based on a hodgepodge of pre-existing intellectual properties like famous movies, nonfiction books, and novels. Recently, WarnerMedia ordered a 24 episode revival of Adult Swim classic The Boondocks, with all 55 episodes of the original series available at launch. There's an animated Gremlins series based on the '80s Joe Dante movie, a one-hour thriller series called The Flight Attendant starring Kaley Cuoco based on a novel by Chris Bohjalian, a cop show called Tokyo Vice starring Ansel Elgort based on Jake Adelstein’s nonfiction book about the inner-workings of the Tokyo Vice police squad, a half-hour comedy based on Alissa Nutting's novel Made for Love, a dystopian limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel's bestseller Station Eleven, and a 10 episode adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel Americanah written by Danai Gurira and starring Lupita Nyong'o. There's also Love Life, a half-hour romantic comedy anthology series starring Anna Kendrick and produced by Paul Feig, and Crime Farm, a drama about forensic crime experts executive produced by Nicole Kidman. Oh, and a Gossip Girl revival about a new group of New York private school teens as well as a Grease spinoff titled Rydell High.
There are a few movies in the works as well, including Steven Soderberg's Let Them All Talk starring Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges, and Gemma Chan. HBO Max acquired the rights to the film, which is already in production, in August. There's also UNpregnant, a story about a Missouri teen who goes on a road trip with her friend in order to get an abortion. The film, which is adapted from Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan's novel of the same name, will star Haley Lu Richardson (Five Feet Apart) and Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria) with Rachel Lee Goldenberg directing.