As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, studios in Hollywood are having to make major decisions on some of their most expensive blockbusters. We’ve already seen Disney drop Mulan straight to Disney+ in some territories, and Robert Zemeckis‘ The Witches was given a direct HBO Max release in lieu of waiting for a theatrical one at a later date.
Thus far, superhero movies, the crown jewel of Hollywood for over a decade, have stuck to simply delaying their releases. But they’ll have to come out at some point, and with no real end in sight for the pandemic and studios potentially losing money by keeping these big products on the shelf, decisions may soon have to be made, and Wonder Woman 1984 may be the first domino to fall.
Originally due out back in June, the film was then pushed to August, then October, and currently has a December 25th release date. However, with many cinemas still shut down around the world and COVID-19 a genuine fear, that release is looking pretty unlikely. So what can Warner Bros. do?
According to Variety, the studio is considering two options. One is simply releasing the film on that December date, but accepting that it will be a limited, short-lived release before dropping the film on HBO Max in January. The other option is to simply push the film back once again, this time to next summer, although obviously there’s no guarantee cinemas – or life – will be back to normal by then.
The problem for Warner Bros. and any studio in this position is that at some point they need to generate cash from these big tentpole titles. Usually they rely on massive opening weekend numbers, but that is no longer feasible, and who knows, may be a thing of the past. So they could delay again and hope for the best, or drop the film on HBO Max and hope for a huge spike in subscribers.
Maybe that would offset some of the probable losses. But the problem with HBO Max thus far hasn’t been content – it’s got a pretty excellent selection – but availability. The nascent streaming service isn’t yet on enough platforms, so it’s not super easy for people to subscribe to. It’s unlikely people are going to buy a subscription and Apple TV just to watch the Wonder Woman sequel.
Disney have already made another big decision with the Pixar film Soul, which was originally heading for theatrical release before being pulled, and will now debut on Disney+ on Christmas Day. Other studios will be monitoring the success of that experiment.
But somehow a huge new superhero movie premiering at home feels like a step above that, a move that could potentially change the industry forever. Although it doesn’t look like there’s a discussion at WB about dropping the film straight on HBO Max yet – as mentioned, there would be a limited theatrical release – it might as well be a direct streaming release for people in many countries.
We’ll see what Warner Bros. decides on. It could have major implications for the future of Hollywood.