Hollywood’s typical summer blockbuster run has been devastated by the COVID pandemic, with studios holding on to billion-dollar releases for fear of low ticket sales and theaters hit hard by health edicts. Warner Bros. is tired of waiting: Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel previously scheduled for release in June, will now come out Christmas day…both in theaters and on HBO Max.
In its announcement, Warner Bros. said the movie will have no extra charge on HBO Max on December 25th, which is ultimately owned by parent company AT&T. That’s a stark contrast to a similar move by Disney, which released the live action Mulan on Disney+ with an extra one-time charge of $30. Disney is also releasing Pixar’s latest animated movie, Soul, on Disney+ (no charge) on Christmas. But it has pushed back its own female-led superhero blockbuster Black Widow to a prospective 2021 release.
The original Wonder Woman is among the best-received of DC’s current superhero movie crop. Releasing the highly-anticipated sequel, in which Diana explores 1980s America and faces off against iconic comic villain Cheetah, is sure to drive quite a few new HBO Max subscriptions.
Releasing a new movie both in theaters and on a streaming platform wasn’t unprecedented even before the pandemic. But doing so for such a high-profile release is, and it may further shake up the struggling theater industry. Earlier this year, AMC theaters dropped all movies from Universal Studios after an executive commented on the success of Trolls: World Tour as a streaming release. The theater chain eventually relented, but it’s clear that the new reality of the pandemic is causing the business of movies to shift even faster than it already was.