As the pioneer of premium cable, HBO became popular for a programming lineup that offered plenty of adult-oriented choices alongside shows for children. But the cabler’s streaming service HBO Max continues to make tweaks in the wake of the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, film enthusiasts are fearful the service is over-compensating in trying to protect viewers from the dangers of smoking — through removing images of cigarettes and cigars.
“No Smoking! Twitter users report HBO Max removed Warren Beatty’s and Paul Newman’s cigars from movie poster art used on its home page: ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller.’ ‘The Life and Times of [Judge] Roy Bean,’” Twitter user Pete Salisbury wrote.
The revised movie poster for director Robert Altman’s 1971 film “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” depicts the star Warren Beatty with his fingers flicked upward — a space in-between them for a cigarette to comfortably rest.
Similarly, a Photoshopped version of the poster for the 1972 dramedy “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” also leaves plenty of room for the imagination, featuring Paul Newman with his hands raised to his mouth as if about to inhale from a cigarette.
“You ever notice how some movie stills and posters on #HBOMax curiously have the cigarettes and cigars censored out of them?” Vulture journalist Eric Vilas-Boas tweeted.
Vilas-Boas noted that several other films have had artwork impacted by the recent exodus of pro-tobacco imagery, such as director Wong Kar-wai’s “Fallen Angels” and the 1970 Western-comedy “There Was a Crooked Man…”
However, not all films with tobacco allusions were affected on the streaming service — one example is the 1935 film “The Nitwits,” directed by George Stevens. Though co-star Robert Woolsey can be clearly spotted toking away on a thick cigar, the film art has remained unscathed.
Marjiuana-related imagery can also still be found on the platform, despite the recent push against pro-smoking film images. HBO original “High Maintenance” — an anthology series about a bunch of New Yorkers connected by a mutual weed dealer — uses its artwork as an opportunity to tease at the show’s premise; though the design is animated, the marijuana-green tint and wispy cloud of smoke being exhaled by star Ben Sinclair are a fair indication of what viewers are in for.
HBO Max has not responded to Variety for comment.