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Wonder Woman 1984 strategy is a kick in the teeth for exhibitors

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In an email to exhibitors, Warner Bros. CEO Jason Kilar says he’s engaged in theaters; his actions tell a different story.

Shock capacity has not been exhausted. Even in a year when the unexpected has become normal, Warner Bros. made a drastic decision: Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman 1984” will stick to its December 25th nationwide release date, but it comes with a kicker – a kick straight into the teeth of exhibitors.

Desperate theater owners were already resigned to the idea that a Christmas date was unlikely, or were gearing up for home availability in a month’s time on HBO Max or Warners’ Premium VOD. But day and date in theaters and on HBO Max ?! It’s unprecedented and it tells everyone that at least two of the three dominant studios are not prioritizing theatrical release.

Of course, this decision was directly linked to our current and extraordinary situation. It’s always devastating for theaters, and it looks like we’re on our way to making home availability, not theaters, the engine. The films won’t have a play, or will play day in and day out – and if there’s theatrical exclusivity, that’s the studio’s decision.

It comes two days after Universal announced a deal with Cinemark, the third-largest national channel. This studio, which unlike Disney and Warners does not have a raised streaming release under one roof, established the option of placing all available versions on PVOD no later than 31 days after release; 17, if he opened less than $ 50 million. This solidified its earlier deal with AMC, which put 17 days a minimum, but suggested that the better films would see a less aggressive push towards early PVOD.

PVOD is huge competition, but Universal has offered theater chains unspecified revenue sharing. This is not the case with “Wonder Woman 1984”: theaters can play the film if they wish. Audiences can choose the superior movie experience. Customers can also choose to pay $ 14.99 per month for HBO Max and watch it as many times as they want, with as many people as they want, and with access to a wide range of other content.

Soul

“Soul”

Disney / pixar

Warners was likely on the cusp of a production loss of $ 200 million, or at least face much lower profit than expected. Like Disney, which also placed Pixar’s “Soul” on Disney + at no additional cost for December 25, Warners says it’s the future. Its press release called the decision “historic”. It is not a word used to refer to exceptions made in difficult times.

Additionally, the studio has announced plans to release the film in theaters in international territories starting December 16, where HBO Max or similar is not yet an option. The earlier date decreases the risk of hacking from US viewers sharing illegal downloads.

Director Patty Jenkins confirmed the news in a tweet, celebrating that at least there was a chance to see her in theaters, while also acknowledging the safety of staying home. But will theaters actually play it? Sources suggest that while theater executives were made aware of the announcement, movie buyers and other staff must have learned through social media. For all, any notice was a fait accompli.

No time to die

“No time to die”

MGM / screenshot

Maybe Warners would sweeten the pot by charging full movie rentals, but there’s no assumption that theaters will play the movie. Acceptance is tacit acceptance, and the history of the industry shows that there is no such thing as a one-time deal. A theater that says “Oh, OK” to “Wonder Woman” will have a much harder time saying “Hell, no” to “No time to die”, “Black Widow” or any future blockbuster that wants to follow that pattern. It wouldn’t be a surprise if many theaters, or most of them, would say “no” and drop the “thank you” in favor of stronger words.

Here is the letter exhibitors received today from Jason Kilar, CEO of Warner Media:

Today we announced that Wonder Woman 1984, Patty Jenkins’ highly anticipated tentpole film – starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine reprising their roles as Diana Prince and Steve Trevor – will hit theaters on December 25 worldwide. In the US, we’re also making this remarkable film available on HBO Max at no additional cost on the same day Wonder Woman 1984 premieres in theaters, for the first month of the film’s release.

For a film of this stature, it’s unprecedented. Given that, we wanted to share some background.

There are a lot of things that go into a decision like this:

• The pandemic.
• Our belief in the theatrical experience and, to this end, the importance of exhibitors.
• Our mission is to be strong and supportive partners of Patty, Gal, producer Chuck Rovner and the entire Wonder Woman 1984 team.
• And finally, the fans, where important decisions like this should always start and should always end.

We are, of course, in an extraordinary moment. It involves a patchwork of regulations, geographic considerations and, most importantly, fan preferences. With that in mind, we see an opportunity to do something decidedly fan-centric: empower them to choose between going to their local theater or opening on HBO Max. Superfans will likely choose both. This incredible movie will be available in both directions on the same day. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where theaters are open, we think we offer a great option given the Cinema Safe protocols that our partners have in place. With this, exhibitors offer a cinematic experience with social distance, masks, cleaning and ventilation protocols. On the flip side, if you and your family would rather stay and make your own popcorn while on vacation, we want to share the Wonder Woman 1984 experience with you on the exact same day on HBO Max. It’s your decision to make.

We are committed to the theatrical experience and believe that giving exhibitors a film of this nature is important at this time. We believe in theaters because hundreds of millions of fans around the world enjoy going to the movies. And as long as fans are looking for the theatrical experience, we’ll be there to serve them great movies in partnership with the exhibitors. Collectively, the fans decide these things, as they should.

Going back to Wonder Woman 1984, we believe this move will bring several benefits. The first and most important benefit is for fans in the form of unprecedented choice from day one. The second benefit is for the exhibitors, delivering a much anticipated movie at a much needed time while they take precautions in their operations. Finally, we believe that we and our creative partners will benefit from this decision, in the form of a response from fans both in theaters and via HBO Max in the United States.

I find it fascinating that we are measuring the performance of this film in an entirely new way. To use a line from The Wizard of Oz, we’re no longer in Kansas. While we will be paying attention to movie theater revenues, our expectations are clearly adjusted due to COVID-19. At the same time, we’ll be paying special attention to the number of families and fans who dive into HBO Max, as we certainly anticipate that a portion of fans will choose to enjoy Wonder Woman 1984 in this way on opening day and on- of the. On a comparable basis, just over four million fans in the United States enjoyed the first Wonder Woman movie on the day it opened in 2017. Is it possible that it will happen again this Christmas with Wonder Woman 1984 between theaters and HBO? Max? We’re excited to find out, doing everything in our power to bring the power of choice to fans.

Many of us could use an uplifting story this holiday season. We think we have this and more in WW84. We believe audiences are going to love every minute of this great movie this holiday season and we can’t wait to share it in this unprecedented way.

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