The internet is in a tizzy over a Bloomberg article tonight that the sequel to the $821M-plus grossing 2017 DC hit, which broke several records for women at the box office, is headed for an HBO Max play a week or two following its Christmas Day theatrical run. I hear that’s not the option the studio is careening toward. However, according to exhibition sources, I understand that WarnerMedia brass have kicked around the idea of a simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max release on Christmas Day, particularly given how the pandemic is poised to shut down California exhibition in two weeks as more counties move from red to purple tier, with other U.S. cities imposing curfews. Oh, yeah, and Western European theaters are closed.
Nothing is certain yet because Warner Bros. hasn’t settled on a precise course of action. A full theatrical release date move of the Patty Jenkins-directed, Gal Gadot-Kristen Wiig movie to summer is still on the table; specifically June 4, 2021, the first weekend of that month where Wonder Woman launched to $103.2M domestic three years ago.
As of tonight, Warner Bros. reps are declining comment on Bloomberg’s speculative piece only to say “WW1984 will be in theaters.”
The problem with the HBO Max-theatrical release is getting exhibition on board. We heard from movie theatre owners before Election Day that Warners pitched them the idea of a shortened theatrical window with PVOD thereafter for WW1984, much like the titles Universal is putting into cinemas now (with AMC getting a share of the PVOD, not No. 3 circuit Cinemark). Insiders at the studio rebutted that plan wasn’t apt to happen.
So, man, Warner Bros, why can’t you make up your mind?
Those who conduct business with Warners tell me that AT&T Brass just don’t get the theatrical business, and are pressuring WarnerMedia executives to turn up the gas on the OTT service. If there’s any fear of ruining exhibition by moving Wonder Woman 1984, movie theaters are already crippled with or without the sequel on the marquee at Christmas.
But seriously, AT&T and WarnerMedia, do what’s best for the franchise, not the crazy streaming monster you just built. Wonder Woman 1984 is not Witches and it’s certainly not Scoob!. This is a movie that has the potential to gross $1 billion worldwide, and the ancillary riches and HBO Max subscribers will come with that down the road. All the MBAs in the room surely need to wake up to that. Perhaps Warner Bros. executives in this instance when dealing with their AT&T higher-ups should take some guidance from some of their HBO characters, Deadwood‘s Al Swearengen and Seth Bullock. Just do like they did when George Hearst came to town: Speak truth to power.
Eric Handler of MKM Partners told me the other day, “Hollywood’s biggest issue is that PVOD has not come close to compensating for the lost box office revenue. That’s why we keep seeing these big movies pushed forward. Some of the smaller films get tested on PVOD, but the longer this (pandemic) goes on, the more of a crunch there will be. We haven’t seen the end of PVOD testing, but I think when you spend $200M on a film, you have to think of the box office.”