2020 was the year that cinema halls lost the fight to the global health emergency. The only notable bid-budget movie to dare release in theaters was Tenet, and its box-office performance scared other studios enough to postpone their own big-budget movies by several months to a full year. The last potential blockbuster still resolutely sticking to its 2020 release date is Wonder Woman 1984, and now, according to a Bloomberg report, Warner Bros.’ new strategy for the movie seems to be to release it online on HBO Max two weeks after the theatrical release.
“[Wonder Woman 1984] may appear on AT&T Inc.’s HBO Max just a week or two after its release… AT&T’s WarnerMedia is in the final stages of deliberations over the fate of the film… While the studio could delay the movie until next year, the quick-to-home-video release is another option gaining support, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. The plans haven’t been set and could change, they said, adding that some cinema owners are open to the idea in this instance.”
As the report points out, releasing a giant blockbuster like Wonder Woman 1984 online so soon after it hits theaters would have been unthinkable a mere year ago. It is a testament to the dire straits the entertainment industry finds itself in that such a strategy is not only being considered but may actually be the best-case scenario.
Till date, Warner’s other big release for the year, Tenet has made around $350 million worldwide, which is nowhere near the amount of money the film would have made if it were released last year. AT&T chief John Stankey had conceded that “I can’t tell you we walked away from the ‘Tenet’ experience saying it was a home run. [But] we’re happy we did it.”
Clearly, Warner cannot afford to have another big movie underperforming with a solely theatrical release. Some would say Warner should forego a theatrical release for Wonder Woman 1984 entirely in favor of a VOD release, but the studio also has to keep their relationships with global theater chains in mind, which has already become incredibly strained as cinema halls struggle to avoid bankruptcy in the absence of new film releases. For her part, Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins had voiced her support for a theatrical release for her film in solidarity with cinema chains.
“I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where the only option is to take your kids to watch a movie in your own living room, and not have a place to go for a date. I really hope that we are able to be one of the very first ones to come back and bring that into everyone’s life… If we shut this down, this will not be a reversible process. We could lose movie theater-going forever. It could be the kind of thing that happened to the music industry, where you could crumble the entire industry by making it something that can’t be profitable.”
Directed and co-written by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman 1984 stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, and Natasha Rothwell. The film is expected to arrive in theaters on December 25. This news arrives from Bloomberg.