After a long (and we do mean looong) wait, “New Mutants” finally hit theaters last weekend, bringing in around $7 million. With many moviegoers still wary about sitting inside a theater amid a still-raging pandemic, and drive-in theaters still hard to come by, it’s very likely the majority of “X-Men” fans will wait to see the film on streaming.
But despite being owned and distributed by Disney (via 20th Century Studios), the latest “X-Men” film will not immediately head to Disney’s streaming services Hulu or Disney+ — but rather a rival service, HBO Max.
And it’s because of a decades-old agreement, though one that is likely to change in the upcoming years.
HBO and Fox have a longstanding output deal that gives the pay cable network first-run TV rights, that is currently set to expire in 2022. Even after the Fox acquisition in 2019, that deal still remained in place. And everything that airs on HBO — which will premiere “New Mutants” on its linear channel at some point after whatever theatrical run the film has is completed — is automatically available on HBO Max.
It’s why other Disney-owned films produced by Fox, like Brad Pitt’s “Ad Astra,” have to gone to HBO (and thus, HBO Max) before any Disney-owned property. The only way to watch those films on Hulu is if you have an HBO account through the streaming service.
Because “New Mutants” is considered an “X-Men” property — reports even suggest that the film was, at one point, going to tie-in to 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” — its rights belonged to Fox, who also held the rights to The Fantastic 4. Marvel gained ownership of “New Mutants” and all X-Men and Fantastic 4 film and TV rights with its acquisition of Fox’s film and TV assets last year.
“The New Mutants” hit theaters this weekend and took in a $7 million opening from an estimated 2,400 screens. The total is slightly below the $8-10 million opening projected for the long-delayed Marvel horror film, but projections are still considered flimsy even among trackers as the industry is still determining the strength of moviegoer interest during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Disney, which acquired “The New Mutants” as part of its purchase of Fox, 62% of all domestic theaters were open this weekend.