In a sea of stalled movie and television productions, the news of one project's delay that was particularly irksome to fans was when it was announced that the Friends reunion special to be filmed for HBO Max had been indefinitely delayed. WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt spoke to Variety during the NAB Show Executive Leadership Summit about their plans to still make the special happen somewhere down the line:
"At first we thought, shows will be delayed for a month or two at the most, and now it seems like it's going to be far longer than that. We're holding out for being able to get this special done hopefully by the end of the summer, if the stars align and hopefully we can get back into production. We do think there's a value to having a big, raucous live audience to experience these six great friends coming back together and we didn't want to just suddenly do it on a web call with, you know, six squares and people shooting from their kitchens and bedrooms."
The reunion special was originally meant to bring together the six main cast members of the extremely popular show together on the same stage to share their experience making Friends and interact with fans. David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt Le Blanc had all been paid astronomical amounts to sign on for the event, causing the company to suffer huge losses when the lockdown made such a gathering impossible.
Now, Greenblatt admits they may be forced to settle for a virtual reunion with the cast, which would hardly be expected to have the same impact on fans, but that the company is still looking for an avenue that would allow for a live get-together:
"But at the moment, we're trying to look to the future and get this thing done in a more conventional way, and I think it's worth waiting for. We would have loved to have had it on [HBO Max on] Day One, but at the same time, if we can get it launched in the fall, I think it'll be something that we can have the audience really looking forward to as well."
HBO Max will make its digital debut in two weeks, and will carry shows and movies from HBO, Warner Bros, TNT, TBS, CNN, and other WarnerMedia properties, with an attached cost of $14.99 a month. In a landscape dotted with heavy hitters like Netflix and Amazon Prime, HBO Max needed a high-profile event to draw eyeballs, which is what the Friends reunion special was meant to be. But now it seems the new streaming giant on the block will have to make do without it.
While the lockdown prevented the reunion special from taking place, it has provided a huge boost to subscriber counts for digital streaming platforms, thanks to huge amounts of the population being forced to stay at home and rely on the internet for entertainment. So HBO Max may ultimately come out a winner in the present scenario.