Last week, it was announced that Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman 1984” would release in theaters nationwide on December 25th, and would also be available on HBO Max (in America) at no additional cost. Well, Warner Bros. seemingly saw the positive response to that news, as they have made the decision to follow that plan for all of their 2021 releases.
This is huge news for the industry as well as moviegoers. With theaters in the majority of the country having been closed since March, pretty much every major film release has been on streaming services. The two major exceptions have been Fox’s “The New Mutants,” and Warner’s own “Tenet.” Both these films were met with lukewarm responses, whereas streaming services have been killing it this year.
This is big news for movie fans, since Warner has a pretty stacked lineup for next year. On top of “Wonder Woman,” Warner is looking at releasing Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” the Wachowski siblings’ “Matrix 4,” James Gunn’s long-awaited “The Suicide Squad,” and many other tentpole franchise entries.
Generally, the release for these movies will look like this: They will release in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day. The film will stay on HBO Max for one month, then only be available in theaters for a given period. After the film’s theatrical run is over, the next step is release for DVD/Blu-ray purchase, as well as rental on iTunes, Amazon Video, etc. Then, presumably, the films will eventually return to streaming on HBO Max.
Unfortunately, this is more bad news for theaters. Movie theaters have been in deep trouble for months now, as most have been stuck paying rent with no movies, no customers, and oftentimes no ability to even open.
According to Variety, Warner and theaters renegotiated for theaters to receive a higher percent of ticket sales. However, there is no telling when theaters will be open, whether they be at full capacity or not. Additionally, many people might feel uncomfortable going to theaters once they can again, which is another challenge for theaters to overcome.
Overall, this is really, really big news for the short-term future of the industry. Disney has already begun to shift their focus to Disney+, and it seems more than possible that other major studios will follow this path. While it will certainly be nice to have a year with more film releases than 2020 saw, hopefully theaters make it out okay on the other end of this.