UPDATED: Warners has made the whole Wonder Woman 1984 December 25 day-and-date theatrical/HBO Max release official. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar released a note about the media conglom’s wild decision.
Director Patty Jenkins also tweeted confirmation of the news this afternoon, saying in part: “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.”
— Patty Jenkins (@PattyJenks) November 18, 2020
WW84 gets an international theatrical release wherever theaters are open on Dec. 16. HBO Max isn’t charging an additional amount to subs like Disney did with Mulan for those stateside. Maoyan has the movie dated for a Dec. 25 release in China as well. The first Wonder Woman made $90.5M there.
Very interesting whether Cinemark and AMC are going along with this: They’re at least both getting a cut of PVOD on the Universal titles they’re playing on a truncated window.
Are exhibitors getting a share of HBO Max revenues? One exhibitor told me that Warners will make terms comfortable. On the first Wonder Woman the studio took home a 60% domestic rental, and on this they hear the studio could go with 40% to 45% instead (another theatre owner told us that’s a ridiculous deal). Here’s the deal as I hear it, and remember, we don’t know what movie theaters will be open by Christmas: WW1984 will only play on HBO Max for the first 31 days before Warners pulls it off (and again it will be in play in whatever theaters). From day 32 to 60, the sequel will have an exclusive theatrical window before going on PVOD on day 61. That’s the only way Warners could get exhibitors to go along with this deal on WW1984, I’m told.
Again this is a driver for the streaming service. Last time we had a holiday streaming and theatrical release was Sony’s controversial comedy The Interview with James Franco and Seth Rogen. Big exhibs didn’t play it, but indies did, and the pic was available for purchase on streaming outlets. End result at the domestic B.O. was an atrocious $6.1M and you gotta figure it will be worse for WW1984 because under 3,000 locations are currently open in the U.S./Canada market.
Kilar mentions that the WarnerMedia did this out of their “belief in the theatrical experience and, to that end, the importance of exhibitors”. I don’t think so, at least here in the United States. If the studio really cared about exhibition, they’d wait this pandemic out and release a very important IP when it’s completely safe to do so, meaning next summer after the vaccine. This doesn’t benefit exhibition as they’ll be competing with HBO Max subscribers. Why pay $15 a ticket per person when you can just shell out $15 for the month, and have a whole living room full of people watch Wonder Woman 1984?
“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.
Here’s Kilar’s note:
Today we announced that Wonder Woman 1984, the eagerly anticipated tentpole film by Patty Jenkins — with Gal Gadot and Chris Pine reprising their roles as Diana Prince and Steve Trevor — is going to be released in theaters on December 25th. In the United States, we will also be making this remarkable movie available on HBO Max at no extra cost the same day that Wonder Woman 1984 premieres in theaters, for the first month of the film’s release.
For a movie of this scale, this is unprecedented. Given that, we wanted to share some context.
There are many things that factor into a decision like this:
• The pandemic.
• Our belief in the theatrical experience and, to that end, the importance of exhibitors.
• Our mission to be strong and supportive partners to Patty, Gal, producer Chuck Roven and the entire Wonder Woman 1984 team.
• And finally, the fans, which is where important decisions like this should always start and should always end.
We are, of course, in an extraordinary moment. This entails a patchwork of regulations, geographic considerations and, most importantly, fan preferences. With that in mind, we see an opportunity to do something firmly focused on the fans: give them the power to choose between going to their local cinema or opening on HBO Max. Super-fans will likely choose both. This incredible movie will be available both ways in the U.S. on the exact same day. If you are fortunate to live in a place where theaters are open, we believe we are offering a great option given the Cinema Safe protocols our partners have put in place. With this, exhibitors are offering a movie-going experience with social distancing, masks, cleaning and ventilation protocols. On the other hand, if you and your family prefer to stay in and make your own popcorn this holiday, we want to share the experience of Wonder Woman 1984 with you the exact same day on HBO Max. It’s your decision to make.
We are committed to the theatrical experience and we believe giving exhibitors a movie of this nature is important right now. We believe in theaters because hundreds of millions of fans around the world value going to the movies. And for as long as fans seek out the theatrical experience, we will be there to serve them with great movies in partnership with exhibitors. Collectively, the fans get to decide these things, as they should.
Getting back to Wonder Woman 1984, we believe this decision will bring several benefits. The first and most important benefit is to the fans in the form of unprecedented choice from day one. The second benefit is to the exhibitors, providing an eagerly anticipated movie at a much-needed time while they take precautions in their operations. Finally, we believe that our creative partners and ourselves will benefit from this decision, in the form of fan response both theatrically and via HBO Max in the U.S.
I find it fascinating that we will be measuring the performance of this movie in an entirely new way. To use a line from The Wizard of Oz, we’re not in Kansas anymore. While we will pay attention to theatrical revenues, our expectations are clearly adjusted due to COVID-19. In parallel, we will be paying close attention to the numbers of families and fans diving into HBO Max, as we certainly anticipate that a portion of fans will choose to enjoy Wonder Woman 1984 that way on opening day and beyond. To provide a comparable, a little over four million fans in the U.S. enjoyed the first Wonder Woman movie on its opening day in 2017. Is it possible for that to happen again this Christmas with Wonder Woman 1984 between theaters and HBO Max? We are so excited to find out, doing everything in our power to provide the power of choice to fans.
Many of us could use an uplifting story this holiday season. We think we have that and more in WW84. We believe audiences are going to love every minute of this great movie this holiday season and we are looking forward to sharing it in this unprecedented way.
Previous, 3:39PM: I’m hearing from several exhibition sources that Warner Bros. is going with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day in theaters and on HBO Max, same day. Warner Bros. would not respond for comment. A screenshot leaked online, and sources say it’s true. This is unprecedented for a big studio tentpole to hit streaming and theatrical at the same time –a bigger move than what Disney did with Mulan– and that’s because it’s a superhero franchise film, completely intended for theatrical release. No word on how this plays out abroad, but given that HBO Max is largely a domestic play, I figure overseas markets, which are open, will play the Patty Jenkins directed, Gal Gadot-Kristen Wiig movie on the big screen.
This is by far the biggest blast off of an IP on HBO Max to date, bigger than Warner Bros.’ Witches and Scoob!, which were both intended for theatrical. Warners appeases those exhibitors bravely staying open during the pandemic –and there are a lot who are being forced to shut down this weekend due to government COVID-19 restrictions, i.e. most counties in California including Orange County and Ventura, Michigan, Illinois, Oregon and Washington– and injecting some juice into its burgeoning streaming service HBO Max. Look out, Disney+, but you’ll have competition on Christmas Day when you show off Pixar’s Soul.
Many expected experimentation with movies during the pandemic, and we saw Disney move a lot to its streaming service, i.e. Mulan at a PVOD tier, but this is by far the biggest roll of a dice with Wonder Woman 1984, which cost a reported $200M. How Warners makes bank on this movie is anyone’s guess. The first movie grossed $822M WW and per Deadline sources turned a $253M profit. Light candles and say prayers for this prized franchise’s theatrical potency moving forward. Specifically, could a threequel have the potential to be a huge B.O. success? Or is segueing this superhero film to streaming going to damage it? These are questions AT&T brass really don’t care about right now as they want to inject more eyeballs into HBO Max.
We’ll have more details as they unfold.
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