Audiences will get to see “Wonder Woman” on Christmas Day after all. After much speculation, Warner Bros. announced that the superhero sequel will debut on the streaming service HBO Max on Dec. 25, the same day it will open in U.S. movie theaters.
Internationally, where HBO Max is not available, “Wonder Woman 1984” will premiere in cinemas one week earlier, on Dec. 16. The film will play on HBO Max for a month at no additional cost to subscribers.
“As we navigate these unprecedented times, we’ve had to be innovative in keeping our businesses moving forward while continuing to super-serve our fans,” said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, which includes Warner Bros. Pictures. “This is an amazing film that really comes to life on the big screen and, working with our partners in the exhibition community, we will provide that option to consumers in the U.S. where theaters are open. We realize that a lot of consumers can’t go back to the movies due to the pandemic, so we also want to give them the option to see Wonder Woman 1984 via our HBO Max platform.”
The decision is surprising because “Wonder Woman 1984” was expected to be one of the biggest movies of the year and had the potential to surpass $1 billion in ticket sales. Yet the move is not entirely unexpected. “Wonder Woman 1984” was originally supposed to hit theaters this past summer. However, it was delayed numerous times amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many were skeptical that “Wonder Woman” would keep its Christmas Day release date since 50% of U.S. cinemas are closed and people are still hesitant to see a movie in theaters.
Earlier in the pandemic, Warner Bros. opted to send titles like “Scoob” to premium video-on-demand and “The Witches” to HBO Max. By keeping “Wonder Woman 1984” on the big screen, it gives struggling movie theaters a lifeline.
“We appreciate how patient audiences have been and given the great anticipation around ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ we are grateful to be able to make this terrifically entertaining movie widely available in these challenging times,” said Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group.
Warner Bros. already took a bold bet in launching Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller “Tenet” in September, marking the first major film to release since the pandemic began. But instead of kicking off a large-scale return to the movies, “Tenet” scraped together lackluster ticket sales in North America and deterred major studios from debuting high-profile movies while the world continues to grapple with coronavirus. Though “Tenet” had better results at the foreign box office, the movie is expected to lose many millions. The hope is that “Wonder Woman 1984” will see a promising turnout from international moviegoers.
The studio decided it was too risky to open another mega-budgeted film on the big screen in the middle of the coronavirus crisis without a safety net like HBO Max. Plus, its parent company WarnerMedia is hoping to drive subscribers to the streaming service, which has struggled to compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus.
“Wonder Woman” generated over $800 million at the global box office in 2017 and became a cultural touchstone as one of the rare comic book movies to spotlight a female superhero, solidifying itself as one of Warner Bros.’ most important properties.
The follow-up follows Gal Gadot’s Amazonian warrior during the Cold War as she battles two formidable foes — Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) — while reuniting with her past love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). The cast also includes Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen.
Patty Jenkins, who directed “Wonder Woman” and the sequel, was bittersweet as she addressed the news on social media.
“The time has come,” she wrote on Twitter. “At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else. We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season.”
“Watch it in theaters, where it is made safe to do so (check out the great work theaters have done to make it so!) And available in the safety of your home on HBO Max where it is not. Happy holidays to all of you. We hope you enjoy our film as much as we enjoyed making it.”