We have seen movies shift release dates all year. The entire time, everyone has been wondering which movie would be the huge shift, the one where studios would possibly cut their losses and begin to shift the entire industry toward day-and-date.
This was not going to be a move taken lightly. Mostly for the echoing ramifications and entire industrial wave it would make.
Well, that move is here.
Warner Bros. has moved Wonder Woman 1984 from exclusively theatrical to a day-and-date premiere on Christmas. That means if you are not comfortable attending the theater during the pandemic, you can watch the movie at home.
This decision was not made lightly. The film's director, Patty Jenkins, lamented the fact that not everyone would be able to see the movie in theaters. But this is definitely a business decision. The movie shifted from the summer to the fall to Christmas, and there were rumblings it could go until late next year.
Rather than bump the film again, Warner decided it was better to recoup the cash now.
Jenkins also tweeted this partial statement: “At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else. We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season.”
This decision doesn't just cover North America. WW84 gets an international theatrical release wherever theaters are open on Dec. 16. As of right now, HBO Max isn’t charging an additional amount to view the movie, which is the route Disney went with Mulan.
I think a general idea here is to attract subscribers to HBO Max, which was hovering around only 30 million subscribers. They hope a recent deal with Amazon Fire and a pending deal with Roku can get people all signed up for the Christmas release.
This is the biggest incentive to get new subscribers now. In the summer, when they roll out the Snyder Cut, they hope to get even more.
So, how are theaters taking this news?
There's nothing official out in the open, but Deadline muses that theaters are probably getting a cut of all this somehow. Universal made a similar deal with Cinemark and AMC, so there must be a deal between WB and these bigger theater owners. Could be a portion of the subscribers or VOD purchase price. But only time will tell as details leak.
But why would anyone pay the money to rent the movie on PVOD when they could pay $15 a month to watch the movie, along with all the other great stuff HBO Max has in their library?
This could mark a massive industry shift into streaming services, one that marks the end of traditional distribution.
Warner Bros. provided statements on the move.
“As we navigate these unprecedented times, we’ve had to be innovative in keeping our businesses moving forward while continuing to super-serve our fans,” said Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, which includes Warner Bros. Pictures. “This is an amazing film that really comes to life on the big screen and, working with our partners in the exhibition community, we will provide that option to consumers in the U.S. where theaters are open. We realize that a lot of consumers can’t go back to the movies due to the pandemic, so we also want to give them the option to see Wonder Woman 1984 via our HBO Max platform."
“We appreciate how patient audiences have been and given the great anticipation around Wonder Woman 1984 we are grateful to be able to make this terrifically entertaining movie widely available in these challenging times,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group.
Moving WW84 tracks with other moves WB has made this year, but this is by far the biggest IP moved to HBO Max to date, bigger than Warner Bros.’ Witches and Scoob!, which were both intended for theatrical but wound up on the platform.
While many people are blaming the pandemic, it's hard not to see this as the future of movies, at least in some capacity. The first Wonder Woman made almost a billion dollars and turned a $250 million profit. Hard to say how you can translate that into subscribers, but it looks like WB is about to find out.
Let me know what you think in the comments.