A new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches is on its way: Robert Zemeckis’ next film was set to hit theaters in just a week, but Warner Bros. has opted to skip theaters and send the movie directly to HBO Max.
Along with the news, the studio released a first trailer for the film, which follows a young boy (played by Jahzir Bruno) who discovers a coven of witches and who teams up with his grandmother (Octavia Spencer) to stop their plan to turn the children of the world into mice.
The film is the latest to skip the theatrical window and go straight to consumers: Disney opted to release Pixar’s Onward on Disney + days after it hit theaters after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, while it decided to release Artemis Fowl directly to the streaming service, while Mulan also skipped theaters in favor of a premium Disney + release.
The Witches is a high profile release for HBO Max, which got its start earlier this summer. In addition to Zemeckis, the movie stars Anne Hathaway (The Grand High Witch), Spencer (The Grandmother), Stanley Tucci (Mr. Stringer), and Chris Rock (narrator), and Kristin Chenoweth.
The film is based on Dahl’s acclaimed 1983 book, which was previously adapted in 1990 by Nicolas Roeg, which starred Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch. This new version has been a long time in the making: Alfonso Cuarón was originally slated to direct the project, only to drop out and be replaced by Guillermo Del Toro, who wanted to do the project as a stop-motion project. The project seems to have gone dark for the next decade, and in 2018, Zemeckis came onboard to direct the project.
The film changes up some of the original details from the original novel: rather than being set in Europe, it’s set in Alabama, with the lead roles played by Black actors, in the form of Rock and Spencer.
The film was originally slated to be released next week, but Warner Bros. has opted to bump the film a couple of weeks to October 22nd — just in time for Halloween.