Cinemax is an American premium cable and satellite television network owned by Home Box Office, Inc. Cinemax primarily broadcasts theatrically released feature films, along with original series, documentaries and special behind-the-scenes features.
|Launched||August 1, 1980|
|Owned by||Home Box Office, Inc. (WarnerMedia Entertainment)|
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
|Available on all U.S. cable systems||Consult your local cable provider or program listings source for channel availability|
|PlayStation Vue||Internet Protocol television|
|Apple TV Channels|
|Amazon Video||Over-the-top TV|
As of July 2015, Cinemax's programming was available to approximately 21.325 million television households (18.3% of cable, satellite and telco customers) in the United States (20.785 million subscribers or 17.9% of all households with pay television service receive at least Cinemax's primary channel).
Cinemax launched on August 1, 1980 as HBO's answer to The Movie Channel (which at the time, was owned by Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, a joint venture between Time Warner predecessor Warner Communications and American Express; TMC is now owned by the Showtime Networks subsidiary of CBS Corporation – previously under Viacom from 1983 to 2005). Cinemax was originally owned by Time-Life Inc., which later merged with Warner Communications in 1989 to form the present-day WarnerMedia (formerly called Time Warner).
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 (HBO ran only nine hours of programming a day from 3:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern Time until September 1981, when it adopted a 24-hour weekend schedule that ran until midnight Eastern Time on Sunday nights; it implemented the round-the-clock schedule on weekdays as well on December 28 of that year). 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 (in the form of Broadway plays, stand-up comedy acts and concerts). 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 (now a Fox affiliate) 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 (HBO would only show R-rated movies during the nighttime hours, after 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, a policy that network largely continues to adhere to as of 2015); 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 (which also featured the short-lived adult drama Scandals, and a series of anthology specials under the Eros America and Eros International banners).
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 (whose U.S. broadcast rights were acquired by the channel from NBC in 1983) and the science fiction series Max Headroom (which had also aired on ABC from 1987 to 1988). 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 (such as Howie Mandel, Chris Elliott and Eric Bogosian). 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.
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 (such as the network's first original adult series Erotic Confessions, and later series entries such as Hot Line, Passion Cove, Lingerie and Co-Ed Confidential), 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" (represented by an abstract face made up of various movie props, with an open mouth made to appear like it is laughing), "Suspense" (represented by a running man silhouette within a jagged film strip), "Premiere" (represented by an exclamation mark immersed in spotlights), "Horror" (represented by a skull augmented with a devil horn and a gear-shaped eye, overlaid in front on a casket), "Drama" (represented by abstract comedy and tragedy masks), "Vanguard" (represented by a globe overlaid on a film strip), "Action" (represented by a machine gun and an explosion) and "Classic" (represented by a classic movie-era couple embracing and kissing). The particular film genre that played on the specific day (and time) varied by country.
In the United States:
In Latin America:
These genre-based movie presentations ended in September 1997, as part of an extensive rebranding of the network; Cinemax's only themed movie presentations at that point became a nightly featured movie at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (under the branding "Max Hits at 8") and a nightly primetime movie at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time (branded as "Max Prime at 10"). Upon the launch of the two multiplex channels in 1998, Cinemax offered "sneak preview" blocks of programs that could be seen on ActionMax and ThrillerMax in primetime, respectively on Saturdays and Sundays. By the mid-2000s, classic films released from the 1940s to the 1970s – which had been a mainstay of the Cinemax schedule from its launch (and continued to air on the main channel in the morning hours during the 1990s and early 2000s) – were relegated to some of its multiplex channels, and became prominent on its multiplex service, 5StarMax. Today, a large majority of mainstream films featured on the main channel are releases from the 1990s to the present, with some films from the 1970s and 1980s included on the schedule.
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 (in the form of action-themed series aimed at men between the ages of 18 and 49) 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. 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 tactic acknowledgement of that content being easily available on the Internet and other companies taking away the advantage of those films airing on premium services.
List of channels
Depending 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 On Demand). 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 (though most cable providers only offer the east and west coast feeds of the main Cinemax channel), 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.|
|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 does not air Max After Dark content.|
|ActionMax||ActionMax broadcasts action movies including blockbusters, westerns, war pictures and martial arts 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.|
(alternately "Cinemax Spanish" or "Cinemax en Espanol" in program listings)
|Cinemáx is a Spanish language simulcast of Cinemax (similar to HBO Latino, although without any programming differences), 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 (with the "a" utilizing an acute diacritic accent for pronunciation disambiguity).|
|MovieMax||MovieMax broadcasts films aimed at young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 years old (the format of the pre-relaunch @Max); 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.|
In 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 (maintaining a focus on action and adventure films); ThrillerMax (which features mystery, suspense and horror films) also made its debut as a newly created channel. Four additional themed channels were launched on May 17, 2001: OuterMax (which carried films dealing with the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres), Wmax (a channel featuring films that appeal toward a female audience), @Max (featuring films aimed at 18- to 34-year-olds) and 5StarMax (focusing on critically acclaimed and classic feature films).
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 (similar to the format of HBO Latino, which simulcasts most of the HBO schedule except for certain differing programs), 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" (or alternately "MultiMax from Cinemax") for several years beginning with the 1998 expansion. As of 2015, however, the channels are not known under an "official" marketed name (however, HBO and Cinemax's respective multiplex packages are referred collectively by certain providers as the "HBO/MAX Pak").
Cinemax 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 Demand
Cinemax 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.
On 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.
As of August 2013, Cinemax – through HBO – maintains exclusive first-run film licensing agreements with network sister company Warner Bros. Entertainment (including content from subsidiaries Warner Bros. Animation, New Line Cinema since 2005, and Castle Rock Entertainment), and various others such as Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (including content from subsidiaries Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios, New Regency Productions, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and former subsidiary and current independently operated studio Miramax Films, while Pixar films never aired on Cinemax), Universal Pictures since 2003 (including content from subsidiaries Universal Animation Studios, Working Title Films, Illumination Entertainment, Relativity Media and Focus Features) Summit Entertainment since 2013, and DreamWorks since 1996 (excluding films co-produced with Touchstone Pictures, rights to such films are held by Showtime).
The first-run film output agreement with Fox was renewed by HBO for ten years on August 15, 2012 (allowing the studio to release its films through the digital platforms iTunes and Amazon.com during a film's term of license with the channel for the first time) and the Universal output deal was renewed for ten years on January 6, 2013 (with the exception of a few animated films that HBO can offer to pass over to the Netflix streaming service).
Cinemax also shows sub-runs – runs of films that have already received broadcast or syndicated television airings – of theatrical films from Paramount Pictures (including content from subsidiary Republic Pictures, both for films released prior to 1998 while Nickelodeon Movies films never aired on Cinemax), Sony Pictures Entertainment (including content from subsidiaries Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, Screen Gems, and TriStar Pictures, all for films released prior to 2005, despite two others never aired movies on Cinemax and were Sony Movie Channel exclusive), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (including content from subsidiaries United Artists, Orion Pictures and The Samuel Goldwyn Company), and Lions Gate Entertainment (for films released prior to 2004, while films since 2004 air on other networks).
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 contracts
During the 1980s, Cinemax had broadcast films from Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures (both output deals of which expired after 2004) 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 (whose films are broadcast by Showtime through a distribution agreement with the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group).
Mainstream action programming
On 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 (first-run episodes of the series aired by Cinemax during its 2011 season were from the show's second season). The series originally debuted in 2010 on Sky1 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 (competing against a similar block, "Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater" on The Movie Channel, during that period), 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 (some featuring elements of the sketch comedy and improv genre) than the conventional stand-up format (such as the first special under the banner, Howie Mandel: Live at Carnegie Mall).
- 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 (most commonly war films, although with occasional broadcasts of military-themed films of other genres).
- 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 (the block was divided into three sub-blocks: "Cinemax Documentary", featuring first-run documentary films; "New Wave Films", featuring acclaimed recent movies; and "Cinemax Imports", originally a standalone block that began in 1985, which showcased film releases from other countries).
- 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 (many with a similar subject) 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 (or on weeknights only between 1998 and 2000, as a result of the creation of the "ActionMax on Cinemax" and "ThrillerMax on Cinemax" blocks).
Max After Dark
Max After Dark was a late-night block that featured licensed softcore pornographic films and original series. Cinemax did not have set start or end times for the block, as they varied depending on the mainstream feature films – and original series on certain nights – that aired prior to and following it, and also depended on the number of programs and programs in particular that were scheduled to air within the block. Programs that aired under the Max After Dark banner carried either a TV-MA or R rating (usually the former), primarily for strong sexual content and nudity. The block had often been the subject of both scrutiny in the media and a source of humor in popular culture, with references to Cinemax's late night programming being featured in various films and television shows. Because of the block's presence, Cinemax was most commonly given the jocular nickname, "Skinemax". The network itself had acknowledged this by using a play on this term for its 2011 documentary series, Skin to the Max. The late night adult series that aired first-run episodes were Lingerie, Life on Top, Femme Fatales, Zane’s The Jump Off, Working Girls in Bed and Topless Prophet (which debuted on May 30, 2014 as the network's first reality series and followed the world of exotic dancing in Detroit, Michigan). Adult films often aired alongside these series, though this depended on the Cinemax multiplex channel and sometimes depending on that night's Max After Dark schedule on each channel. The block originally debuted on May 4, 1984, as a weekly block called "Cinemax Friday After Dark"; these adult programs eventually expanded to seven-night-a-week airings by the late 1990s. Cinemax maintained an on-air policy – that had been in effect since 1993 – not to air any adult programming on its main channel before 11:30 p.m. ET.
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 (10:30 p.m. Eastern Time at the earliest) 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 (which is aimed at families) and 5StarMax (which carries a format of largely critically acclaimed, mainstream feature films) 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."
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