Cinemax originally launched in 1980 as a way for HBO to compete with The Movie Channel. Unlike the vast majority of HBO's lineup, Cinemax was designed to broadcast programs 24 hours a day.
The spokesman of Cinemax, Robert Culp, said that the producers planned for the channel to be entirely about movies, broadcasting them all the time. During its early years, Cinemax was a tremendous success because cable television subscribers only had a few channels available. Movies, especially ones that were aired uncut, were the most desirable program category for subscribers. Because Cinemax showed classic films without commercials or edits, it became a sought-after addition for many subscribers.
During the time of its creation, most cable providers did not sell Cinemax to customers if they did not have an HBO subscription, and HBO and Cinemax were usually sold in a package deal. For the first decade that the network was live, Cinemax also aired music programming to keep up with the rising popularity of MTV. Comedy specials also later made their debuts on the channel. Though the theme of the programming had become more diverse, the channel still remained predominately dedicated to movies. During the 1900s, Cinemax would use symbols in its time slots to denote each movie's genre.