Well, the final domino has fallen: According to, well, every outlet, and after a TV spot leaked saying as much, Wonder Woman 1984 will be hitting theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day, essentially shattering the wall between big-budget theatrical releases and streaming ones. If you’re a subscriber, you won’t have to pay extra in order to see the film, it’ll be there day-and-date for you to enjoy. It’s a significant and vaguely upsetting change, given what it means both for exhibitors and for our country’s progress in combating COVID-19, but it’s apparently sat on a shelf for long enough for AT&T. Patty Jenkins took to Twitter to offer her thoughts about the change, and you can read the disappointment in her statement:
So, yeah. This is a development that no one but the consumer is particularly happy about. This news must be particularly disheartening for theater owners, who were banking on both the pandemic improving as we entered the fall and a return of big-ticket movies, but there is some comfort in the fact that it still is going to hit cinemas wherever they’re open. Again, WB is owned by a telecom, and they’d sell their own thumbs if it meant a boost of a point or two at the start of trading, given their in-company moves with regards to practically everything not named HBO Max, so they’re not really up for considering the long-term health of an industry that only makes up a small-ish portion of their portfolio until they realize how bad shit’s gonna get and how good it could have been when the streaming bubble pops like an angry pimple between the fingers of mercurial market forces. So, dumping it instead of delaying it sates the angry nerd, desperate for content that they feel entitled to right now, and also will “draw new subscribers” to HBO Max, which will make Wall Street happy. But, as Deadline points out, unless they’re sharing streaming revenue with theaters, well, it’s a bit of a raw deal.
Now, we’re probably just being frustrated about this unnecessarily: After all, the 2021 schedule is currently so jam-packed full of movies that it would be nearly impossible to slate without a major hit to its box office, so taking the L and praying that people sign up and forget to cancel after the free trial seems like a decent-enough idea. And the fact that they’re not charging extra for it means that the Mulan experiment truly was a failure, all things considered, so there’s no revenue in doing a prestige release like that for more than, say, $20. But this does feel like a sea change in the way things work in Hollywood, especially if consumers become entitled to seeing big-ticket films like this appearing on streaming services day-and-date, and one hopes it’s just a temporary shift that will disappear as soon as a COVID vaccine or treatment is widely available (which, hopefully, will be next spring). Because, man, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s just how much we appreciate being out and in the world, among others, sharing experiences with one another. Be it a concert, a comedy club, or seeing a movie in a packed auditorium, we need to not lose sight of the fact that virtual substitutes are life’s margarine: fine in a pinch, but the real thing is just so, so much better.
Here’s a thought: If you’re feeling any guilt about potentially watching Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max (you technically shouldn’t, given that you’re paying for a subscription) or you “feel bad for theaters,” why not write a letter to your senators or congressmen demanding that they pass the Save Our Stages Act, which would help prevent cinemas and other performance venues from closing? Here’s a handy page that’ll help with that. Or maybe find an independent cinema near you and see if they have membership options? Again, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and we’ve seen what the last couple of months look like without theaters, and it’s awfully lonely.