Anyone who skipped CinemaCon this year out of fear of the pandemic in Las Vegas missed a spitfire of a luncheon chat Thursday afternoon. Not only was Patty Jenkins smashing the theatrical day-and-date model, and wagging a finger at exhibition over the decline in the moviegoing experience, but also Paramount Domestic Distribution Boss Chris Aronson put Marcus Theatres CEO and president Rolando Rodriguez in check over exhibitors’ ticket pricing.
When, natch, asked about the hindsight of Wonder Woman 1984 going theatrical day-and-date on HBO Max, Jenkins exclaimed, “It was the best choice in a bunch of bad choices at the moment” and a “heartbreaking experience.” Back in December, Warner Bros sent its entire 2021 theatrical release slate day-and-date with HBO Max due to its outlook on the lingering pandemic (which, the studio wasn’t wrong about). The first film to go day-and-date in theaters and on Warners’ streaming service was Wonder Woman 1984 over Christmas weekend; it was also at a time when B.O. capitals New York City and Los Angeles remained closed.
Wonder Woman 1984 wound up opening to a paltry $16.7 million versus the first 2017 pic’s pre-pandemic stateside start of $103.2M. Wonder Woman 1984‘s immediate availability on HBO Max also saw the pic quickly pirated. The pic through 17 days was watched by 3.9M U.S. terrestrial households, per Samba TV.
“It was detrimental to the movie,” said Jenkins about the DC sequel that grossed $46.5M domestic, $166.5M worldwide. “I knew that could have happened.”
“I don’t think it plays the same on streaming, ever,” she said about the sequel, before exclaiming, “I’m not a fan of day-and-date and I hope to avoid it forever.”
“I make movies for the big-screen experience,” said the director, whose first installment of the female superhero saw a spectacular gross of $822.8M WW.
“I won’t make one,” said Jenkins if she’d ever make a movie for Netflix, meaning one with a short theatrical window that then segues to streaming.
“I like working with Netflix for television, I wouldn’t make a movie there or any streaming service with those terms,” she said. “It’s hard to market a movie when it has a limited run.”
At the top of the panel, Jenkins criticized exhibition on how the quality of the moviegoing experience has waned in recent years with auditoriums at “80% of their volume.” Also the “diversity of content” has plummeted, something she blamed on studios and the terms they wage for big pics and holding over. She did shout-out luxury dine-in chain iPic for creating a first-class moviegoing experience with its recliners, waiters and a blanket.
Earlier in the panel, Rodriguez tooted the old horn that MPAA chairman Jack Valenti use to at ShoWests of yore about how moviegoing is the best entertainment value for a family, better than seeing live sporting events. He also touted how large-format screens like Imax are driving ticket sales.
Aronson had some words to say on this.
“I think it’s a fallacy comparing going to the movies to live sporting events. Live sporting events are a once-only experience,” said the Paramount Domestic Distribution chief, pointing out how the moviegoing experience is the same at any hour of the day.
“That experience quality should be the same,” argued Aronson. “You can’t compare the price of movie tickets to a NFL or NBA game.”
“Pricing is an issue in our business. If we simply rely on large format (pricing), attendance will continue to go down and down,” continued Aronson.
“We need to figure out how more people can go to the movies,” said Aronson.
Rodriguez responded that he has $5 Tuesday popcorn deals.
“You should figure out another day in the week to use that deal,” answered Aronson.
Mark Zoradi, CEO of Cinemark, was also on today’s panel. The former Disney executive said he’s heard publicly and privately that “every content provider is going back to an exclusive theatrical window, that it’s good for the business.”
Zoradi added that a recent Ernst & Young study showed that streaming and moviegoing aren’t consumer Sophie’s choices.
Added Zoradi, “People who stream more in the home, they go to the movies as well.”
Los Angeles Times film business reporter Ryan Faughnder moderated the riveting session this afternoon.
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