New Wonder woman sequel grossed $ 16.7 million in North American theaters this weekend, the biggest opening weekend in the United States since the pandemic began, but a paltry sum compared to box office returns -typical office during the Christmas holidays.
The film starring Gal Gadot had been the first in a great Warner Bros. experiment to debut online and in theaters the same day, as the legendary Hollywood studio struggling with the persistent pandemic in the United States.
Warner’s Wonder Woman: 1984, with a budget of around $ 200 million, and Disney Soul which cost around $ 150 million to make, both debuted digitally on December 25. The releases made Christmas Day the biggest drop in content in streaming history and the culmination of a year of high-risk experimentation for Hollywood.
“Christmas 2020 is a watershed moment for the film industry and the streaming wars,” said Rich Greenfield, partner at Lightshed, a research group, noting that Wonder woman was “the biggest low budget movie ever made [to go] directly to streaming ”.
Overall, Wonder Woman: 1984 made $ 85 million in theaters, including $ 16.7 million in the United States and Canada, according to ComScore.
With mostly empty theaters in the United States as the pandemic rages on, killing more than 300,000 Americans, the large movie studios took unthinkable steps less than a year ago.
In the most radical action taken, Warner Bros. announced this month that all of its films will be releasing next year on the HBO Max streaming platform on the same day they make their theatrical debut. The news shocked the industry, angering filmmakers who make films for Warner.
Christopher Nolan, whose big bet on theaters with Principle failed to attract the American public, said the move “made no economic sense.”
“Even the most casual of Wall Street investors can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Theaters have lost some $ 32 billion this year as the pandemic hit their business, according to research group Omdia. While attendance has returned to some countries like Korea, the United States – the largest cinema market – has failed to recover.
This left Hollywood studios with an impossible conundrum. Struggling with costly plans, studios must release them to largely empty theaters, bring them online at a financial loss, or delay them in the hope that the world will return to pre-pandemic normalcy next year.
Disney, the largest studio, has taken a hybrid approach, putting some films such as Mulan online at an additional cost, with plans to post more, like the next one Black Widow, in cinemas. Sony has postponed most of its major movies until next year or 2022, while Comcast-owned Universal has experimented with the paid digital release of films such as Trolls: Around the world.
But Warner Bros., long regarded as Hollywood’s most creative studio, has taken the more extreme approach.
The relatively meager box office results for Wonder Woman: 1984 should validate Warner’s strategy. The film’s release on HBO Max is also expected to help boost subscriptions to the streaming service. Almost half of HBO Max subscribers watched Wonder Woman on Christmas Day, according to Warner.
WarnerMedia, the home of HBO and Warner Bros., has some of the most coveted catalogs in Hollywood. But HBO Max has struggled to gain traction. Analysts attribute its slow start to a monthly price of $ 15, higher than most competitors, and a disruption in distribution with platforms like Amazon and Roku, which only recently allowed users to add. the application.
AT&T bought Time Warner for $ 80 billion in a deal struck last year as the telecommunications company looked to get into entertainment and take on Netflix. HBO Max is essential to this goal.
This month, AT&T CEO John Stankey championed Warner’s movie distribution strategy.
The online and theatrical releases are intended to “allow the industry to have this moment of transition,” Stankey said at an investor conference. “We knew we had to try something different”.