Studio Ghibli Movies Streaming Rights Exclusively With HBO Max

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BY October 19, 2019

You can’t think of Anime without Studio Ghibli. The famous film studio has created some of the seminal Anime films of, ever. In a huge landmark deal, the entire Studio Ghibli movies’ library will be exclusively available to stream on Warner Media’s HBO Max service. 

Studio Ghibli’s Worldwide Notoriety

Anime and Studio Ghibli are almost synonyms in mainstream media. More so in the West. American audiences’ biggest and brightest exposure to the anime genre comes from the movies of Studio Ghibli. Founded by Hayao Miyazaki, the studios’ classic and award-winning anime movies have become its legacy. While this is a reductive description, Ghibli is almost like the Pixar of Japanese animation. 

Most ‘must-watch’ Anime lists are incomplete without the addition of Studio Ghibli movies. As our own Anime Guide recommends basically all of them to newcomers to the genre. 

The Rise Of Studio Ghibli Movies In The West

Studio Ghibli’s rise in the Western market outside of Japan is worthy of a movie itself. The studio’s first film in the United States was Castle In The Sky. This began the journey of Ghibli and its films to become iconic for casual audiences, as well as fans of the Anime genre. 

The studio has worked in various capacities with many heavyweights of Hollywood, such as Disney. At one time, the distribution rights of Studio Ghibli movies in America was with Miramax and its now-disgraced former Producer. 

Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke Image via Studio Ghibli.

There’s even an infamous story about Miyazaki and Weinstein during the release of one Studio Ghibli movie. Princess Mononoke is one of the studio’s biggest and best movies today. However, during the initial release, there was a debate about the American version’s various edits. Miyazaki ended the debate by sending the producer a samurai sword with a note that read “no cuts”. 

Miyazaki is the basis of the honorable Samurai warrior character archetype in Japanese movies. Or so I’d like to think. 

HBO Max Will Feature All Studio Ghibli Movies

The latest announcement from Variety is a pretty big deal. For years now, Studio Ghibli movies were only available through home release or the many film festivals or special events that featured a screening. But now, an entirely new generation will be able to stream the studio’s classic anime movies from the comfort of their own home. 

The deal is probably the biggest infusion of another library into the HBO Max service. While its rivals already boast of a huge catalog of content outside their original creations. 

What This Means For The Streaming Wars

HBO Max, for all intents and purposes, has slowly faded to the back of the battlefield when it comes to the new Streaming Wars. 

Netflix is already the giant streamer that everyone else is trying to dethrone. Apple TV+ is creating original content with big-time stars like Steven Spielberg. And how they fully integrate the service into their own various mobile, computer and home products, is unclear. Disney+ is probably the strongest right now with the ongoing announcements of their entire Disney library in the service. Not to mention the massive franchises they’ve acquired over the years which includes Marvel Studios and Star Wars. And the topper is all the original content they are also creating for the service, from those various franchises. 

Studio Ghibli's My Neighbour Totoro Image via Studio Ghibli.

Therefore, until this announcement, HBO Max has been trailing in the conversation of the best streaming service. Studio Ghibli movies being available only to Max is a massive get for the company, which returns them to the field of competition. 

But, at what cost?

Studio Ghibli Movies Were Never Meant For Streaming

The HBO Max deal comes literally hours after a contradictory news report. GKids is the official North American rights holder of all Studio Ghibli movies. They exclusively told Polygon earlier in the year that Ghibli movies would not be available for streaming, to preserve the theatrical experience. 

“Studio Ghibli does not make their films available digitally, whether for download or streaming, anywhere in the world. They continue to believe that presentation is vital and particularly appreciate opportunities for audiences to experience the films together in a theatrical setting.”

—GKids Representative

Whereas the new deal comes with a statement from the current chairman of Studio Ghibli itself. 

“We are excited to be working with HBO Max to bring the complete collection of Studio Ghibli films to streaming audiences in the U.S. As a premium content brand, HBO Max is an ideal home for our films,”

—Koji Hoshino; Chairman, Studio Ghibli

It’s unclear what changed in a few months, and a few hours from the story appearing on Polygon. But, what’s noticeable is that the report announcing the deal with HBO Max is devoid of any statements from co-founder Miyazaki. Whether the deal happened without his approval or if there any unrest behind the scenes is currently unknown.

What we do know is that Studio Ghibli movies being on HBO Max definitely gives the streaming service an advantage that the others don’t have right now. For example, Ghibli has a considerable worldwide following. And while this deal is only for the US streaming rights, it’s still pretty unprecedented. 

Studio Ghibli movies will be available on HBO Max beginning in 2020. 

Are you excited for Studio Ghibli movies to be available on streaming? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels. 

Anime News

Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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