The existence of the Justice League Snyder Cut isn't really even a debate anymore after the past few weeks, so with demand at an all-time high, it's obvious HBO Max is the best way to release the Snyder Cut. Snyder, his fans, and the cast and crew of Justice League have gone full tilt, making #ReleaseTheSnyderCut trend on Twitter nearly every day since last Friday as Snyder and others drop some of the biggest Snyder Cut reveals yet.
The initial opposition to the Snyder Cut was the narrative that it doesn't exist (despite clear evidence it's significantly complete), and once it became clear that wasn't true, the narrative shifted to focus on how it doesn't make financial sense for the Snyder Cut to get a theatrical release after the financial failure of Justice League's original theatrical release.
While there is a point to be had here, it doesn't take into account that the streaming era calculates value very differently from the dollars and cents of a traditional box office haul, and HBO Max isn't just a more than suitable home for the Snyder Cut, but it could be argued HBO Max needs the Snyder Cut.
HBO Max Needs Exclusive Content For the Streaming Wars
After years of saber-rattling, the streaming wars are becoming a real thing in 2020. Netflix, the longstanding king of streaming, has a very real competitor in Disney Plus, which already has ten million subscribers in its first week of release.
In order to compete with Disney Plus, HBO Max will need to have a catalog to match Disney Plus' original Marvel and Star Wars shows. We already know some shows are in the works, like a Green Lantern show from Greg Berlanti and another season of Doom Patrol, which will air on both DC Universe and HBO Max, but no major franchise properties will have a presence at launch, and this close to launch, there's no chance any new projects will be ready to go by then, either. Meanwhile, Disney Plus had The Mandalorian ready to go on day one with another season already underway as The Falcon and Winter Soldier is also in production.
While many people look at the Snyder Cut's ultimate value as it's box office of home media sales potential, the streaming market is an entirely different circumstance. In the streaming wars, content is king, specifically exclusive content, and HBO Max will be wanting as much as possible to go toe-to-toe against Disney+ and Netflix.
When Netflix is billions of dollars in debt for the sake of having an exclusive library (with a sizeable chunk of that going to Adam Sandler movies), streaming platforms aren't looking at return on investment using the same theatrical box office model people are used to. In fact, it's often necessary to take a loss upfront in order to build a library and attract a subscriber base today in hopes they'll eventually pay-off through a lifetime of loyal membership. So HBO Max doesn't only need more exclusive content based on popular IPs, but they need it ready sooner rather than later.
The Snyder Cut is (Almost) Ready
This is where the Snyder Cut comes in. Zack Snyder already completed 100% of principal photography and around 6 months of post-production before leaving the project. There's intense debate as to just how much work was completed in that time and how much remains (particularly when it comes to VFX), but with around 6 months remaining until release when Zack Snyder departed, the time-to-complete worst-case scenario is around 6 months - the same amount of time remaining from now until the launch of HBO Max.
It's also been previously reported the Snyder Cut could take as much as $30-40 million to complete, but that's a fraction of the expense it would take to get a similar scale movie made. Don't forget, the Snyder Cut is a $300 million blockbuster that was almost totally reshot and re-written at the last minute, meaning very little of that $300 million is even visible on-screen in the final product. Not only is there more unseen footage from the Snyder Cut than there is total footage in the theatrical cut, but it's also not going to be rushed out with horrible CGI - and it will only cost $30-40 million to have it finished, meaning HBO Max could have an unseen $300 million mega-blockbuster Justice League team-up movie on their hands for less than the cost of Joker's production budget. And, as previously mentioned, with the way the streaming model works, especially during a platform's launch, that's not a dollar amount HBO Max will be concerned about recouping in the immediate future.
Snyder's DCEU Can Live On Through HBO Max
Here's where things start to get interesting. We all know Justice League was to be Snyder's third installment in a five-part Superman-centric story, so the elephant in the room as fans campaign to Release The Snyder Cut is the question of what happens when it's released and virtually ends in a cliffhanger setting up a movie that will cost far more than $40 million to finish? Again, all those rules about box office returns are out the window with streaming.
If HBO Max releases the Snyder Cut and Snyder's loyalists and casual onlookers (and, let's not lie, even his haters will need to watch it to see what's up), HBO Max suddenly has an audience to serve with more content. Sure, Warners was let down by Zack Snyder's good but not great box office returns on his DC movies, but what's to stop HBO Max from continuing the story of his original DCEU plan, satisfying his fans and bringing subscribers to the platform while at the same time preserving his divisive vision from being seen as the definitive mainstream interpretation, and allowing audiences to embrace it as the Elseworlds story it was always meant to be.
Let's take things a step further and look at something interesting Netflix did with Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight (and may do with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), adding additional footage and releasing it in an episodic format. Snyder is famous for his director's cuts for a reason. He tells massive stories with long runtimes that make studio executives nervous about theatrical ticket sales, so his true vision for these stories is rarely the one seen on first run on the big screen.
As a result, even his director's cuts, or "Ultimate Cuts," like most movies, leave footage on the cutting room floor. Man of Steel (while Snyder maintains the theatrical cut is his director's cut) has an additional 20-odd minutes of Krypton; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has at least an additional 20 minutes of footage beyond even what was in the three-hour Ultimate Edition, much of it Clark Kent/Superman; and Ray Fisher once said Zack Snyder "shot enough footage for two movies" with Justice League. What if Snyder followed in Tarantino's footsteps and released his extended-extended cuts as a mini-series on HBO Max?
If that were to happen, and if it's received, what's to stop HBO Max from then deciding to continue the story, not with Justice League 2 and Justice League 3, but with Justice League SEASON 2 & 3? This new model doesn't need to be restricted to just Snyder's movies, either. Add in the 99% complete Ayer Cut of Suicide Squad and the scripts and pre-production work done on Rick Famuyiwa's The Flash and Ben Affleck's The Batman and Ray Fisher's Cyborg movie and there's a Game of Thrones scale DCEU TV show waiting to happen.
Not to put the cart before the horse, here. The Snyder Cut needs to be released and be a big hit for HBO Max before we tumble down that rabbit hole - which includes many complicated renegotiations of contracts for some cast members who have seemingly moved on - but under the streaming model the possibilities are endless, and there's a number of projects a large audience of people are begging to see, and the Snyder Cut could be the first puzzle piece necessary to make it a reality while simultaneously getting the Snyder Cut monkey off WB's back and correcting for the DCEU's biggest mistake, all in a way that doesn't require an overhaul of their existing theatrical plans. There's no losers here.
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