HBO Max Suddenly Removes Original Movie

HBO Max made the rare decision to pull an HBO Original off its service. The 2019 movie Brexit, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch, is now MIA on the streaming platform. The title was not listed to be removed on the January exit list, but, in-app, the movie was branded as leaving on Jan. 18, making it three full years on the service following a Jan. 19, 2019, premiere. This notice was listed as late as Friday night, but come Saturday, the "Vote Leave"-centric movie was already off the service. 

The Emmy-nominated movie's HBO Max landing page simply reads a message that reads "Can't Connect" and "We're having issues connecting to HBO Max right now. Please try again." The movie also does not appear in-app when searching. However, the title is still live on HBO's standard website, which is tied closer to the cable network than the streamer. HBO Max and HBO catalogs are supposed to be aligned, so it's unclear if there's still a way for HBO viewers in the U.S. to watch the movie. (You can still purchase the movie digitally and physically via retailers like Amazon.)

The move is likely a side effect of it not being made in-house by HBO. The movie originally aired on Channel 4 in the U.K. as Brexit: The Uncivil War, with House Productions producing. BBC Studios notably took over House Productions in December 2021. Presumably, HBO and the rights holders did not reach a deal to extend the title's U.S. streaming rights past three years, despite HBO branding it as a first-party title. 

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Why would HBO Max not want to keep an HBO Original? One might cite the controversy surrounding the movie, due to its depiction of the real-life events surrounding the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum and real-life subjects Dominic Cummings (Cumberbatch), Boris Johnson (Richard Goulding) and Nigel Farage (Paul Ryan). However, it is more likely a money move, with the title likely not drawing enough eyeballs three-years-on from release to justify the cost of a rights renewal. As for why it was pulled a few days before Jan. 18, it's unclear.