David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, has expressed some understandable anger at HBO and WarnerMedia over the release of The Many Saints of Newark. Chase returned to the franchise he created to pen the script for the prequel film, but its hybrid release model in theaters and on HBO Max has drawn fire from the writer. Streaming releases for major feature films have been controversial since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, but Chase has particular reason to be frustrated over The Many Saints of Newark.
The original Sopranos series is widely viewed as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Through six critically acclaimed seasons, the mobster drama told the tale of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his world of family and crime. Since the show ended in 2007, many viewers have called for more stories to be told in the Sopranos timeline, and after an extended time away, Chase finally declared his return to the franchise, albeit with a catch – he’d be writing a prequel story for Tony Soprano, and it would be a movie with a proper theatrical release.
Unfortunately, like so many films, the plan for The Many Saints of Newark was altered due to the covid-19 pandemic. Like all of WarnerMedia’s big-ticket 2021 movies, it was shifted to a hybrid release model, where it will premiere simultaneously in theaters and for streaming on HBO Max on October 1. Chase has been pretty outspoken about his frustration with that decision, largely because he fears the streaming option will hurt the public perception of The Many Saints of Newark, making it unable to “shed that television image” that many have of The Sopranos. While streaming is a positive solution to the safety risks of in-person gathering, Chase has a right to hold some resentment towards HBO, as the hybrid release will inevitably make it harder for The Many Saints of Newark to stand apart from the show that spawned it.
There will be plenty of Sopranos fans who watch The Many Saints of Newark on HBO Max and subsequently see it as an extended bonus episode, rather than a cinematic entity unto itself. That’s unfortunate, as the movie has a whole different look, feel and approach than the original Sopranos series, and it might therefore be best enjoyed as an independent story. It’s understandable then why Chase is so frustrated, as the streaming release of The Many Saints of Newark will definitely keep the movie more closely connected to The Sopranos than it was initially planned to be.
Chase has made it clear that The Many Saints of Newark was written as a movie, and that it will be best enjoyed in a proper movie theater. Hopefully, plenty of people will still have safe ways to see it in that way, but for those who can’t, the HBO Max is certainly still viable. The Many Saints of Newark was always destined to struggle to extend beyond the shadow of The Sopranos, and it’s a shame that struggle was made even more difficult by its impending release on HBO Max.