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HBO Max's Biggest Signup Driver Yet? 'The Sopranos' Movie Prequel Taxies for Oct. 1 Premiere

Warner Bros. Pictures' 'The Many Saints of Newark'
Michael Gandolfini plays the young version of his late father's most famous character, Tony Soprano, in David Chase' highly anticipated prequel film follow-up to 'The Sopranos,' 'The Many Saints of Newark.' (Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Now growing faster than the two much larger streaming rivals they're trying to chase down, WarnerMedia and HBO have the wind at their backs, announcing within the last week key distribution deals with Dish Network and LG Electronics

Meanwhile, a crucial corporate tie-up with Discovery Inc., which will further combine the strengths of two contenders to the global subscription streaming crown, awaits closure and integration. 

But could it actually be that the programming franchise perhaps most responsible for building the HBO brand in the first place, David Chase's acclaimed mob drama The Sopranos, that ends up getting HBO Max's global subscriber number in shouting distance of Disney and Netflix?

Sure, it's highly unlikely that even Chase's Warner Bros. feature follow-up to his acclaimed series, which debuts simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters Friday, Oct. 1, will goose HBO Max subscribers that much. 

But The Sopranos -- once hailed as the best written TV show ever by the Writers Guild of America and “the richest achievement in television history" by The New Yorker -- already transformed HBO once. The Sopranos debuted at a time when HBO was just a small niche movie service. By the time it left the diner with a Journey ballad famously playing it out,  HBO had become a global destination for water-cooler hits, approaching an unthinkable-at-the-time 30 million U.S. subscribers. 

And with the emergence late last week of the trailer for Chase's The Many Saints of Newark, along with Bloomberg publishing Monday an initial review for the film (it's paywalled write-up is really more of a synopsis), anticipation builds.

Much of the early buzz centers around Michael Gandolfini and his spot-on resemblance to his late father, James Gandolfini, who played The Sopranos' titular yuppie mob boss in 86 brand-building episodes from 1999 - 2007. 

Indeed, the younger Gandolfini appears born to play the adolescent Tony Soprano in a feature film set in 1967 Newark, as racial tensions between Italian- and African-American communities spill over, and the young tough's street smarts, leadership capabilities and pathological tendencies begin to emerge. 

The film co-stars Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltasanti, the man who ushers Tony into his life of organized crime (much the way Tony will later take down Moltasanti's son, Michael Imperioli's Christopher Moltasanti, in the series, which picks up three decades later). 

Vera Farmiga plays the younger version of the shrewish mother who undermines the aspiring New Jersey mob bosses' self esteem and innate talents, ostensibly leading him into one of The Sopranos series' core recurring plot lines--Tony's weekly therapy sessions. 

Other younger iterations of the core casts are handled by Corey Stoll (Uncle Junior), Bill Magnuson (Pauly "Walnuts") and Samson Moeakiola (Salvatore 'Big Pussy' Bonpensiero). Ray Liotta and Jay Bernthal add to the tough-guy star power.

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.