Cinemax is an American premium cable and satellite television network owned by Home Box Office, Inc., a subsidiary of WarnerMedia Entertainment. Programming featured on Cinemax primarily consists of recent and older theatrically released motion pictures, and original action series, as well as documentaries and special behind-the-scenes featurettes. Based at the HBO offices inside WarnerMedia's corporate headquarters at 30 Hudson Yards in Manhattan's West Side district, Cinemax operates eight 24-hour, linear multiplex channels; a traditional subscription video on demand service; and a TV Everywhere streaming platform for Cinemax's linear television subscribers.
Cinemax is also sold independently of traditional and over-the-top multichannel video programming distributors a la carte through Apple TV Channels and Amazon Video Channels, which feature VOD library content and live feeds of Cinemax's linear television services., Cinemax's programming was available to approximately 21.736 million U.S. households that had a subscription to a multichannel television provider.
HistoryCinemax launched on August 1, 1980 as HBO's answer to The Movie Channel. Cinemax was originally owned by Time-Life Inc., which later merged with Warner Communications in 1989 to form the present-day WarnerMedia.
Unlike HBO – and most cable and broadcast channels already on the air at the time of its launch – Cinemax had broadcast a 24-hour-a-day schedule from its sign-on. On-air spokesman Robert Culp told viewers that Cinemax would be about movies, and nothing but movies. At the time, HBO featured a wider range of programming, including some entertainment news interstitials, documentaries, children's programming, sporting events and television specials. Movie classics were a mainstay of Cinemax at its birth, presented "all uncut and commercial-free" as Culp said on-air. A heavy schedule of films from the 1950s to the 1970s made up most of the channel's program schedule.
Cinemax succeeded in its early years because cable television subscribers typically had access to only about three dozen channels due to system headends at the time of Cinemax's debut being capable of carrying only a limited number of channels. Movies were the most sought-after program category among cable subscribers at the time, and that Cinemax would show classic films without commercial interruptions and editing for time and content made the channel an attractive add-on for HBO subscribers. In many cases, cable providers would not sell Cinemax to customers who did not already have a subscription to HBO. The two channels were typically sold as a package, and were usually offered at a discount for subscribers that chose to get both channels. The typical pricing for a monthly subscription to HBO in the early 1980s was US$12.95 per month, while Cinemax typically could be added for between US$7 and $10 extra per month.
In 1983, Time-Life Inc. filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against independent station KOKI-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma and its owners Tulsa 23, Ltd. over the use of the slogan "We Are Your Movie Star", which both the television station and Cinemax were using as their slogans at that time; the suit went into proceedings in an Oklahoma Federal District Court, Cinemax lost the case. As additional movie-oriented channels launched on cable television, Cinemax began to change its programming philosophy in order to maintain its subscriber base. First, the channel opted to schedule R-rated movies during daytime slots ; Cinemax then decided it could compete by airing more adult-oriented movies that contained nudity and depictions of sexual intercourse, launching the weekly "Friday After Dark" late-night block in 1984.
During the network's first decade on the air, Cinemax had also aired some original music programming: during the mid-to-late 1980s, upon the meteoric rise in popularity of MTV, Cinemax began airing music videos in the form of an interstitial that ran during extended breaks between films called MaxTrax; it also ran music specials under the banner Cinemax Sessions as well as the music interview and performance series Album Flash during that same time period. The mid- and late-1980s also saw the addition of a limited amount of series programming onto Cinemax's schedule including the sketch comedy series Second City Television and the science fiction series Max Headroom. Comedy specials were also occasionally broadcast on the channel during the late 1980s, under the Cinemax Comedy Experiment banner, featuring free-form sketch and improvisational styles from various rising and established stand-up comics. Although its programming had diversified, Cinemax had foremost remained a movie channel. In February 1988, the network premiere broadcast of the 1987 action-comedy Lethal Weapon became the highest rated telecast in Cinemax's history at that time, averaging a 16.9 rating and 26 share.
On March 4, 1989, Warner Communications announced its intent to merge with HBO parent Time Inc. for $14.9 billion in cash and stock. Following two failed attempts by Paramount Communications to legally block the merger, as Paramount was seeking to acquire Time in a hostile takeover bid, the merger was completed on January 10, 1990, resulting in the consolidated entity creating Time Warner, which, remains the parent company of Cinemax and HBO.
By 1990, Cinemax limited its programming lineup mainly to movies. However starting in 1992, Cinemax re-entered into television series development with the addition of adult-oriented scripted series similar in content to the softcore pornographic films featured on the channel in late night, marking a return to adult series for the channel.
From 1992 to 1997, Cinemax aired daily movie showcases in set timeslots, centering on a certain genre which differed each day of the week; with the introduction of a new on-air presentation package in 1993, the genre of a given showcase was represented by various pictograms that usually appeared within a specialized feature presentation bumper before the start of the movie; the symbols included: "Comedy", "Suspense", "Premiere", "Horror", "Drama", "Vanguard", "Action" and "Classic". The particular film genre that played on the specific day varied by country.
In the United States:
- Monday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time: Comedy
- Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time: Suspense
- Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time: Vanguard
- Thursday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time: Drama
- Friday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time: Premiere
- Saturday, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time: Action
- Sunday, Noon Eastern Time: Classic
- Monday: Comedy
- Tuesday: Classic
- Wednesday: Drama
- Thursday: Horror / Suspense
- Friday: Vanguard
- Saturday: Premiere
- Sunday: Action
In 2001, Cinemax began to shift its focus from solely airing second-run feature films that were previously broadcast on sister channel HBO before their Cinemax debut, to premiering select blockbuster and lesser-known theatrical films before their initial broadcast on HBO. In February 2011, Cinemax announced that it would begin offering mainstream original programming to compete with sister channel HBO, and rivals Showtime and Starz – as well as due to competition from other movie services such as Netflix; these programs were also added in an effort to change the longstanding image of Cinemax as a channel mostly known for carrying softcore pornographic series and movies.
On October 22, 2016, AT&T announced an offer to acquire Time Warner for $108.7 billion, including debt it would assume from the latter; the merger would bring Time Warner's various media properties, including HBO and Cinemax, under the same corporate umbrella as AT&T's telecommunications holdings, including satellite provider DirecTV and IPTV/broadband provider AT&T U-verse. Time Warner shareholders approved the merger on February 15, 2017.
On November 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against AT&T and Time Warner in an attempt to block the merger, citing antitrust concerns surrounding the transaction. U.S. clearance of the proposed merger—which had already received approval from European, Mexican, Chilean and Brazilian regulatory authorities—was affirmed by court ruling on June 12, 2018, after District of Columbia U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ruled in favor of AT&T, and dismissed antitrust claims asserted in the DOJ's lawsuit. The merger closed two days later on June 14, 2018, with Time Warner becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T, which renamed the unit WarnerMedia; the Home Box Office, Inc. unit and its assets were assigned to the newly formed WarnerMedia Entertainment division, although it continues to operate as an autonomous subsidiary. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington unanimously upheld the lower court's ruling in favor of AT&T on February 26, 2019. By the time AT&T purchased Time Warner in the spring of 2018, adult programming on both the HBO and Cinemax multiplexes and on-demand services had all but disappeared, a tacit acknowledgement of that content being easily available on the Internet and other companies taking away the advantage of those films airing on premium services.
In January 2020, WarnerMedia executives acknowledged that in light of the company's pending launch of the HBO Max streaming service with its own original programming lineup, Cinemax would no longer be commissioning original programming. However, executives with the company stated that Cinemax would remain available for the foreseeable future as a movie-focused service through its existing distributors, and that its content would not be included in HBO Max.
List of channelsDepending on the service provider, Cinemax provides up to sixteen multiplex channels – eight 24-hour multiplex channels, all of which are simulcast in both standard definition and high definition – as well as a subscription video-on-demand service. Cinemax broadcasts its primary and multiplex channels on both Eastern and Pacific Time Zone schedules. The respective coastal feeds of each channel are usually packaged together, resulting in the difference in local airtimes for a particular movie or program between two geographic locations being three hours at most.
|Channel||Description and programming|
|Cinemax||The main "flagship" feed; Cinemax features blockbuster movies, first-run films, movie favorites and limited original programming. The channel commonly premieres new movies – debuting on the channel within a lag of between eight months to one year on average from their initial theatrical release – on Saturday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time as part of "See It Saturday", and broadcasts a featured movie Sunday through Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Cinemax also runs original action series on Friday evenings at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.|
|MoreMax||Launched in 1991, MoreMax is a secondary channel with similar program content as Cinemax on a separate schedule; it also carries foreign, independent and arthouse films. The service broadcasts a featured movie every night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. MoreMax was originally named "Cinemax 2" until 1998. It originally used slightly-different bumpers to distinguish itself from the original Cinemax, but by 1993, it had instead begun using a barebones "program grid" structure similar to the Prevue Channel. With the rebrand to MoreMax, it gained a full on-air look once more.|
|5StarMax||Launched on May 17, 2001, 5StarMax showcases modern classics, featuring award-winning films and timeless movie classics. The channel broadcasts a featured classic every night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It is the only Cinemax channel that did not air Max After Dark content.|
|ActionMax||ActionMax broadcasts action movies including blockbusters, westerns, war pictures, martial arts, horror and adventure films; the channel has a prime time film block, "Heroes at 8", which carries a featured action movie at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time nightly. ActionMax replaced "Cinemax 3", which existed from 1995 to 1998.|
|Cinemáx||Cinemáx is a Spanish language simulcast of Cinemax, broadcasting Spanish-dubbed Hollywood films and original series. The channel originally launched on May 17, 2001 as @Max, targeted at young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 with programming focused on contemporary films, and movies with an exemplified attitude and unique ideas; under its current format, the channel was known as MaxLatino from June 1, 2013 to April 1, 2015, when it adopted its parent network's branding.|
|MovieMax||MovieMax broadcasts films aimed at young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 years old ; it was previously formatted as a family-oriented service from June 2013 to January 2015. The channel originally launched on May 17, 2001 as WMax, which was targeted at a female audience, and featured dramas, mysteries and classic romance films.|
|OuterMax||Launched on May 17, 2001, OuterMax runs science fiction, horror and fantasy films; the channel has a late-night film block, "Graveyard Shift", carrying a featured sci-fi or horror movie every night at midnight Eastern Time.|
|ThrillerMax||Launched in 1998, ThrillerMax runs mystery, suspense, horror and thriller movies; the channel runs a prime time film block, "When the Clock Strikes 10", showing a different featured mystery, suspense or thriller at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time seven nights a week.|
BackgroundIn 1991, HBO and Cinemax became the first premium services to offer multiplex channels to cable subscribers as companions to the main network. These additional services of the two premium channels were initially made available to TeleCable systems in Racine, Wisconsin; Overland Park, Kansas; and the Dallas suburbs of Richardson and Plano, Texas. The following year, research compiled by Nielsen Media Research showed that multiplex delivery of HBO and Cinemax resulted in a positive impact on subscriber usage and attitudes towards their service, including increasing subscriber retention of pay cable subscriptions. The first Cinemax multiplex channel, Cinemax 2, was launched on these three systems; a third channel, Cinemax 3, would eventually make its debut in 1995.
The first major expansion to the multiplex came in 1998, with the rebranding of one multiplex channel and the launch of two additional channels as genre-based services: Cinemax 2 underwent a rebrand under the new name MoreMax, while Cinemax 3 was replaced by ActionMax ; ThrillerMax also made its debut as a newly created channel. Four additional themed channels were launched on May 17, 2001: OuterMax, WMax, @Max and 5StarMax.
On June 1, 2013, WMax and @Max were respectively relaunched as MovieMax and Max Latino. Max Latino – which dropped its distinct branding and was renamed Cinemáx on April 1, 2015 – mirrors the schedule of the flagship Cinemax channel, featuring Spanish-language dubs of feature films and original series broadcast by the main channel. MovieMax started out as a family-oriented channel which did not broadcast R-rated films, and focuses on recent and classic hit movies.
The Cinemax multiplex was collectively known as "MultiMax" for several years beginning with the 1998 expansion., however, the channels are not known under an "official" marketed name.
Cinemax HDCinemax HD is a high definition simulcast feed of Cinemax that broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format. In addition to its main channel, Cinemax also operates high definition simulcast feeds of all seven multiplex channels. The flagship network began transmitting its programming exclusively in high definition on September 1, 2008. Cinemax HD is available on major cable, fiber optic and satellite providers such as Dish Network, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Comcast Xfinity, AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS, although few providers offer all eight multiplex channels in HD.
Cinemax On DemandCinemax operates a subscription video-on-demand service, Cinemax On Demand, which is available at no additional charge to new and existing Cinemax subscribers. The Cinemax On Demand service, which launched in 2002, offers program content available in standard or high definition including feature films, episodes of Cinemax's original action series, adult programming and special behind-the-scenes features including interviews. Cinemax on Demand's rotating program selection incorporates select new titles that are added each Friday, alongside existing program titles held over from the previous one to two weeks.
Max GoOn September 13, 2010, Cinemax launched Max Go, a website which features more than 700 hours of content available for streaming in standard or high definition, at no additional charge to Cinemax subscribers. Content available on the service includes feature films, documentaries, and late night adult programming featured on Cinemax's Max After Dark block. It is available to Cinemax subscribers of AT&T U-verse, Cox Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network, Suddenlink Communications, and Charter Communications. The Max GO iPhone, iPad, and Android app was released on August 11, 2011.
Movie libraryAs of August 2013, Cinemax – through HBO – maintains exclusive first-run film licensing agreements with network sister company Warner Bros. Entertainment, and various others such as Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Universal Pictures since 2003 Summit Entertainment since 2013, and DreamWorks since 1996.
The first-run film output agreement with Fox was renewed by HBO for ten years on August 15, 2012 and the Universal output deal was renewed for ten years on January 6, 2013.
Cinemax also shows sub-runs – runs of films that have already received broadcast or syndicated television airings – of theatrical films from Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Lions Gate Entertainment.
Films that HBO maintains pay cable rights to will usually also run on Cinemax during the period of its term of licensing, although some feature films from the aforementioned studios to which the two channels hold broadcast rights will make their premium television debut on Cinemax several weeks before its premiere on HBO and vice versa. Cinemax rarely airs G-rated films during the morning hours, instead opting to air films with R, PG-13 or PG ratings during these time slots. The channel also produces documentary films under the banner Cinemax Reel Life.
Former first-run contractsDuring the 1980s, Cinemax had broadcast films from Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures and Orion Pictures through exclusive distribution deals with HBO; as of February 2013, rival premium channel Starz has an exclusive film output deal with Columbia and TriStar parent Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Paramount Pictures films released between mid-1988 and late 1997 were broadcast on Cinemax; rival Showtime assumed pay television rights between 1998 and 2008. HBO/Cinemax's contract with DreamWorks Animation expired after 2012, at which time Netflix assumed pay television rights. HBO relinquished its deal with DreamWorks' live-action films at the end of 2010, when the distribution rights shifted from Paramount Pictures to Touchstone Pictures.
Mainstream action programmingOn August 12, 2011, Cinemax began airing original series other than the licensed Max After Dark programming, with the addition of prime time action-oriented series targeted at men between 18 and 49 years of age. On that date, Cinemax debuted its first mainstream original program, the U.S. premiere of the British action series Strike Back. The series originally debuted in 2010 on Sky One in the United Kingdom, which Home Box Office, Inc./Cinemax partnered with to produce the series after the conclusion of its first season. On October 19, 2012, Cinemax launched its second primetime original series, Hunted, in cooperation with BBC One. Alan Ball's Banshee followed in 2013. Two new shows premiered in 2014: the Steve Kronish-produced Sandbox and Steven Soderbergh-produced The Knick.
Former program blocks
- Drive-In Saturday Night – Running Saturday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time from 1984 to 1993, the "Drive-In Saturday Night" block featured a broad mix of cult films and action movies.
- Cinemax Comic Relief – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1985 to 1988, showcasing a selection of four or five different comedy films each month.
- Cinemax Comedy Experiment – Running from February 16, 1985 to 1988, the "Cinemax Comedy Experiment" was a showcase of original comedy specials that were more free-form in style than the conventional stand-up format.
- Rising Star – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1985 to 1986, showcasing feature films from up-and-coming actors.
- Cinemax Film Discovery – This film block ran in varied primetime timeslots from 1985 to 1990, showcasing feature films not previously seen on television or in wide theatrical release.
- Military Max – Running from 1985 to 1988, this showcase featured a mix of four or five different military-themed feature films.
- Cinemax Director's Chair – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1985 to 1993, showcasing a selection of notable films from an acclaimed director.
- Beyond the Screen - This in-between bumper shows behind the scene looks of an upcoming movie or a movie that will soon be aired on Cinemax.
- Cinemax Western Roundup – Running from 1985 to 1993, this weekend block featured a mix of film westerns.
- Cinemania – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1988 to 1993, showcasing a selection of comedic films.
- Cinemax Classic Collection – Running from 1988 to 1992, this block showcased a selection of film classics from the 1930s to the 1960s.
- Cinemax From the Heart – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1988 to 1993, showcasing a selection of romantic comedies and dramas.
- Vanguard Cinema – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1988 to 1993, showcasing a selection of critically acclaimed films from the United States and abroad.
- Max Crime Time – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1988 to 1997, showcasing a selection of crime dramas, detective films or film noirs.
- Starring... – This film block ran in varied timeslots from 1988 to 1997, showcasing a selection of hits as well as some early films from a particular film actor throughout the month.
- Summer of 1000 Movies – "The Summer of 1000 Movies" annual film festival ran from 1992 to 2005, and ran until the mid-2000s, in which the channel ran 1,000 films over the course of each summer without repeats.
- Max Hits at 8 – Running from 1997 to 2001, this block showcased a popular feature film each night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
- Max Prime at 10/Max Time – Debuting in 1997 under the "Max Prime" banner, this block showcased a particular choice movie of various genres each night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Max After Dark
The adult programming featured on Max After Dark was not limited solely to the main Cinemax channel: MoreMax also aired softcore pornographic films and series, sometimes airing earlier than the main Cinemax channel would allow; ActionMax, ThrillerMax and OuterMax also featured adult films on their late night schedules, even though the softcore adult films and series did not necessarily fit the respective formats of these multiplex services. Conversely, MovieMax and 5StarMax generally do not run any adult programs because of their respective programming formats. Some of the adult films featured on the Max After Dark block also aired late nights on sister channel HBO Zone, which was the only HBO multiplex channel to feature pornographic film content. Cinemax was able to carry softcore pornographic programs as well as other forms of adult content within the channel's mainstream programming in part since the FCC's content regulations applied only to channels that broadcast on the publicly owned spectrum and not those only available on restricted-access cable networks, which had consequently taken considerably more leeway in their programming. However, by 2013, Cinemax had begun to scale back this content, with network executives wanting the service to focus more on its original programming as a point of differentiation. Variety noted the ubiquity of internet porn, and that by modern standards, the softcore content was "tame by comparison to some of what can be seen in originals on HBO and other pay TV channels."