Winter Wonder Woman

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ to debut simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max

As movie theaters across America continue to struggle and as coronavirus cases in many parts of the world continue to spike ahead of the holiday season, Warner Brothers. announced Wednesday that it will release Wonder Woman 1984 simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day.

Warner will debut the sequel to 2017 hit Wonder Woman for one month on the streaming service at no extra cost to subscribers. Movie theater chains like AMC have said they will play the movie in all the markets it can.

“Given that atypical circumstances call for atypical economic relationships between studios and theatres, and atypical windows and releasing strategies, AMC is fully onboard for Warner Brothers’ announcement today,” AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

Director Patty Jenkins urged fans to see the movie in theaters where it is safe to do so, and at home on HBO Max if viewers felt uncomfortable going to theaters.

“At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” she tweeted. Warner originally scheduled the films for a December 2019 release date before it moved the release date up to November of that year and then delayed it to June 2020. Once the pandemic hit, it shuffled to August, then October. Now, its December release date could set a new standard.

Other studios have tinkered with a same-day rollout strategy for releasing movies during the coronavirus pandemic, but Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first major studio tentpole released on both a streaming service and in a theater on the same day. Universal made Trolls World Tour available for VOD rental on its release day in April. It hit streaming services soon after. Disney released its live-action version of Mulan to Disney+ in September under a “premier access” price tag of $29.99. Disney also later bumped its Pixar film Soul from June to November and eventually settled on a streaming-only Christmas Day release date.

Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) attempts to remove Donald Trump from office.

So there’s precedent for a move like this, but Wonder Woman 1984’s release is the biggest example yet of a studio deploying the day-of business model. At $15.99 a month, an HBO Max subscription is more expensive than a single movie ticket, but it’s also cheaper than a premier access rental of Mulan.

The streaming service is looking to up its beef up its subscription base. Its most recent self-reported numbers put the service at 38 million subscribers, which is great for a service that debuted in May, putting it on track to compete with the 73.7 million subscribers Disney+ said it picked up in one year. The original Wonder Woman also made $828.1 million globally. It’s safe to say some of those fans would shell out for a streaming subscription.

Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar wrote in a company memo Wednesday that this release strategy is great because it gives the consumers a choice. He also said that Warner is still committed to the theatrical experience, a statement that should go without saying after Warner’s release of Tenet this year.

Wonder Woman 1984’s Christmas Day release also gives consumers another choice of movie to watch. In addition to Soul, Promising Young Woman and News of the World will come out in limited release on Christmas, and Regina King’s directorial debut One Night in Miami will bow in select theaters before moving to streaming on Amazon Prime in January.

That 90-day theatrical window continues to shrink, and it looks like Wonder Woman will lead the way. HBO will literally become a Home Box Office, at least for a month.

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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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