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The Last Movie Stars, a six-part documentary series directed by Ethan Hawke, concerning the lives and love story of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, premiered on HBO Max in the United States on July 21, 2022.
In Canada, HBO Max is not available via authorized means, and both leading up to and following the U.S. release, there was no indication that Crave, HBO Max's usual programming output partner in Canada, would be carrying the series.
Instead, a different movie-focused service, Hollywood Suite, will be premiering the series in Canada, with episodes premiering weekly on Thursdays starting January 12, 2023, both on-demand and on the Hollywood Suite 2000s Movies linear channel.
Hollywood Suite is available through most Canadian TV service providers, or as an add-on "channel" on Amazon Prime Video, for as low as $4.99 per month, though this is on top of the price of Amazon Prime or the applicable TV service. (Prices are before applicable sales taxes, and were last checked in December 2022.)
It is possible that The Last Movie Stars may also eventually be available in Canada through another service like the CNN linear channel, but the language of Hollywood Suite's announcement suggests it won't be available anywhere else in Canada for some time.
Why isn't "The Last Movie Stars" on Crave?
Many Canadians are likely already aware that new programs from HBO Max usually go in Canada to Crave, the Bell Media streaming service, under a long-term output deal that Bell signed with HBO Max's then-parent company, WarnerMedia, in late 2019. They may have even come across "HBO Max Original" documentaries like On the Record and Class Action Park on Crave.
However, the aforementioned output deal only covers HBO programming (including most documentaries commissioned by the U.S. TV channel), as well as HBO Max-branded scripted programming. Crave has indeed picked up some of HBO Max's documentaries as well, but on a case-by-case basis. Some of these were picked up a few weeks or months after they premiered on HBO Max itself, while some programs like Equal landed instead on other channels in Canada, like Hollywood Suite.
There was an additional wrinkle for The Last Movie Stars, as we'll get into next.
So where will "The Last Movie Stars" air in Canada? And why did we have to wait?
While branded in the U.S. as a "Max Original" series, the underlying broadcast and streaming rights to the series are in fact controlled by a different Warner Bros. Discovery division, CNN Films.
Initially, CNN announced that the series would in fact premiere on CNN+, a streaming service that launched in the U.S. on March 29, 2022, while WarnerMedia was still owned by AT&T... and then shut down less than a month later, once Discovery completed its acquisition of WarnerMedia, and its new leadership team made clear they'd never wanted the service to launch in the first place.
That led into the docuseries being moved to HBO Max – at least for its initial release in the United States. However, that does not automatically result in the series falling under Bell Media's output deal for HBO Max programming, even with CNN and HBO Max being part of the same parent company.
Instead, like many other productions where CNN Films has been a co-producer, that company also retains broadcast rights to air the program at a later date on the CNN cable TV channel. Because that channel is available in Canada, Warner Bros. Discovery has limited motivation to sell the Canadian rights to a third party – and Canadian broadcasters may have less motivation to buy, given that it would presumably still have to share the rights with CNN.
But it would not air on CNN in Canada any sooner than it would air in the U.S., which will likely be several months after the HBO Max release. That's because, without some period of exclusivity, the intended effect of getting more Americans to watch and subscribe to HBO Max would be limited.
While there have been some other CNN Films documentaries that have both aired on CNN and also been available on Crave – including RBG, Julia, and the Anthony Bourdain documentary Roadrunner – in those cases, their availability on Crave has been tied to their theatrical releases through distributors, including Mongrel Media and Focus Features, that have first pay window (or "pay-1") contracts with Crave.
One other possibility did open up in August 2022 – CNN and HBO Max parent company Warner Bros. Discovery announced that its other major streaming service, Discovery+, would be adding a CNN Originals hub on August 19 "domestically" (which, in this context, most likely means within the U.S.). However, Discovery+ is available in Canada – unlike HBO Max – which at least opened up the possibility that similar programming could be added to the Canadian version of the service in the future, and if so, that could have potentially included The Last Movie Stars.
But instead, on December 15, 2022, Hollywood Suite announced that it would be the exclusive Canadian home for the series. The service has carried a few other HBO Max and CNN series in the past, having had the Canadian premiere of the aforementioned HBO Max docuseries Equal in 2021, and international drama series Gomorrah and Valley of Tears, while having also carried a second run of the CNN docuseries The Movies.
- December 19, 2022 – noted Hollywood Suite's announcement that it had picked up the series
- August 4, 2022 – noted (stronger) possibility of The Last Movie Stars coming to Discovery+ in Canada