HBO Max’s content boss explains its DC originals strategy, from J.J. Abrams’ Justice League Dark series to the Snyder Cut

"Justice League"
“Justice League”

Warner Bros.

  • HBO Max’s content chief, Kevin Reilly, talked to Business Insider about the original DC projects Max is developing.

  • Reilly said fans can expect “the highest level of cinematic production values” on its shows featuring Green Lantern and Justice League Dark characters.

  • Reilly said that J.J. Abrams, who is developing the Justice League Dark series, pitched the show because it was “unexplored territory.”

  • Reilly said “Doom Patrol” season two will stream on both Max and DC Universe because there were “high-end series that DCU produced that felt like, budgetarily, we could handle from a business model better.”

  • Reilly said that HBO Max had been sitting on “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” for “quite some time” because there were many legal issues to figure out.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

HBO Max has launched with content from across the WarnerMedia entertainment library, from HBO to Warner Bros. to DC.

The service is already developing high-profile original DC projects such as a Green Lantern series from Greg Berlanti, who’s behind The CW network’s DC shows like “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow, and a series featuring Justice League Dark characters from J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot, which closed a lucrative deal with WarnerMedia last year. 

HBO Max’s content chief, Kevin Reilly, teased to Business Insider during a recent interview that viewers can expect movie-like budgets on its DC originals.

“Greg has done a lot of really quality DC fare for The CW,” Reilly said. “These will not be that. These will be next step up in production value. You can expect the highest level of cinematic production values on those shows.”

He added that Abrams pitched a Justice League Dark series himself. A movie had been in the works at Warner Bros. for years with filmmakers like Doug Liman (“Edge of Tomorrow”) and Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) attached, but it never went anywhere.

“He always felt that there was a lot of opportunity there and an unexplored territory, and kind of a pond that he could play in exclusively,” Reilly said. 

Why DC Universe’s ‘Doom Patrol’ is heading to Max

Max exclusives won’t be the only original DC content on the service.

The second season of “Doom Patrol” will stream on both Max and WarnerMedia’s fan-centric streaming platform, DC Universe, in June (the show was formerly a DCU exclusive). DCU’s future has seemed unclear ahead of Max’s launch and some people close to the service had previously told Business Insider that they felt it wasn’t a priority for WarnerMedia.

“There have been extensive discussions around DCU because DC is such a valuable entity to us and the depth of fandom is so important,” Reilly said. “So we really want to figure out how we walk this line for fans where we have a deep fan engagement, which is why DCU was designed, and a broader fan engagement.”

Reilly added that there were “high-end series that DCU produced that felt like, budgetarily, we could handle from a business model better, and bring along and service that swath of fans.”

“Doom Patrol” was one of those series, though an HBO Max representative told Business Insider that there are “no current plans for any other DCU show” to move to Max.

The Snyder Cut will be released

The most anticipated DC project coming to HBO Max for a large swatch of fans, though, isn’t a TV show.

Last week, director Zack Snyder and HBO Max announced that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” otherwise known as the long-awaited “Snyder Cut,” would stream exclusively on Max in 2021. Fans have rallied for Snyder’s director’s cut of “Justice League” since the theatrical version disappointed. 

Snyder exited the movie late into production after a family tragedy and “Avengers” director Joss Whedon was brought in for significant reshoots that fans argued dramatically altered Snyder’s original vision. Snyder enthusiasts called for the Snyder Cut’s release mostly through coordinated campaigns on social media, and HBO Max took notice. 

According to Reilly, the Snyder Cut was set in motion “quite some time ago,” but issues had to be figured out before making it official.

“There were a lot of issues involved to figure out how we could deliver on his vision, and a myriad of legal issues,” Reilly said. “We’ve been sitting on this for quite some time but working on it. It was obviously a secret project given the high level of interest, but we were chipping away at it piece by piece. There was some strategy but also some serendipity in how we got over the hurdle of some of those issues just before the launch.”

When asked what the issues were, Reilly only said that that’s “a whole separate interview.”

In a new interview with the “Recode Media” podcast, WarnerMedia chairman Robert Greenblatt said of the project’s budget,  “I wish it was just $30 million,” implying that it would be even more expensive than a recent Hollywood Reporter report indicated.

“It isn’t as easy as going into the vault and there’s a Snyder Cut sitting there to put out,” Greenblatt said. “It does not exist. Zack is actually building it, and it’s complex, including new VFX shots. It’s a radical rethinking of that movie and it’s complicated and wildly expensive.”

Read Business Insider’s full interview with Kevin Reilly: 

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