A good day for UltraHD: HBO Max, The Lord of the Rings will stream in 4K HDR

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Wonder Woman is going to be extra shiny on modern TVs.
Enlarge / Wonder Woman is going to be extra shiny on modern TVs.

Warner Bros.

Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first film to stream in 4K HDR (UltraHD) on HBO Max when it premieres on the service in the US alongside a theatrical release on December 25. It will also stream with Dolby Atmos audio.

The news was announced in a tweet by Director Patty Jenkins:

Excited to announce that #WW84 will be the first film on HBO Max available in 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, Dolby Vision AND Dolby Atmos! Can’t wait. IN THEATERS on Dec. 25th and exclusively streaming in the US on @hbomax. PLEASE find the biggest and highest quality screen you can!!

HBO Max is one of the most expensive streaming services at $14.99, but unlike the majority of its competitors, it has not previously included any 4K or HDR content.

For comparison, commercial-free monthly subscription costs for competing services include: $6.99 for Disney+ (4K), $9.99 for CBS All Access (HD), $4.99 for Apple TV+ (4K), $8.99 for Amazon Prime Video (4K), $11.99 for Hulu (4K), $10.99 for Showtime (4K), $8.99 for Starz (4K), or $10 for Peacock (HD).

Only Netflix has a price point that rivals or beats HBO Max. Netflix’s HD-only subscription, which is equivalent in quality to HBO Max up to this point, recently saw its price raised from $12.99 to $13.99 per month. However, Netflix’s 4K-enabled subscription is now $17.99—three dollars more than HBO Max, albeit with a vast library of UltraHD content.

It’s important to note, though, that even services like Netflix or Hulu that offer 4K content have plenty of shows and movies that are only available in HD. The label here just means they offer at least some 4K content.

4K TVs accounted for a third of shipments in the US even back in 2017, but one analytics firm projected that 60 percent of new TV purchases in 2020 would be 4K. According to surveys from firms like IHS, around a third of US households already had 4K TVs as of 2019. We’re speculating a bit here, but there has been some data that correlates 4K TV ownership with streaming service usage, so it could be that well over a third of HBO Max viewers will get a better experience with the film (and presumably, with some other future HBO Max programming as well) as a result of this move.

It has been a red-letter week for fans of high-end TV tech like 4K and HDR. In addition to this HBO Max announcement, all six films in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies became available in 4K HDR elsewhere. It was already reported that the films would be released on UltraHD Blu-ray, but it was less widely reported that the physical release early this week was accompanied by quality upgrades in digital storefronts like iTunes and Amazon Video, too.

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