As of now, the prospect of major theatrical releases for the rest of the year is looking pretty bleak. No Time to Die is taking James Bond back to spring next April, Marvel’s Black Widow already shifted to next year, and Dune was pushed back nearly an entire year to next fall. But if there’s one movie that has theaters holding their breath for the box office boom that Christopher Nolan’s Tenet couldn’t give them, it’s Wonder Woman 1984, and director Patty Jenkins has doubled down on her desire to see the sequel released in theaters, even as she’s worried about whether or not they’ll survive in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
First up, there have been rumblings across the internet that Wonder Woman 1984 will be the next movie to forgo a theatrical release and will instead be released as a premium VOD or streaming title. However, director Patty Jenkins seems to have rebuffed that possibility on Twitter:
Correct. Direct to streaming is not even being discussed. We are still 100% behind the theatrical experience for #WW84 and supporting our beloved theater business. https://t.co/SDyD7Nzo0Z
— Patty Jenkins (@PattyJenks) October 8, 2020
However, this tweet is a bit confusing. Because what she’s retweeting is someone pointing out that Wonder Woman 1984 will be arriving simultaneously in theaters and on streaming. And even though she says “Correct,” about the tweet in question, in the same breath, she definitively says “direct to streaming is not even being discussed.” So what’s the deal here?
The source referenced above is a pop culture outlet called Giant Freakin’ Robot saying that Warner Bros. Pictures wants to be the first studio to release a major blockbuster like this on streaming, even though Disney+ was already the first to do this with Mulan. And no, they’re not talking about being the first to release it on streaming without a premium price, because their story specifically says Warner Bros. will “charge a premium rate” for the movie, proving they don’t know the difference between streaming and premium VOD (the former comes with a subscription, the latter you pay to watch like a rental).
But when you consider how Patty Jenkins words her tweet, perhaps it’s possible that Warner Bros. is considering releasing the movie as a premium VOD title, not a streaming title, at the same time it hits theaters. Then again, it’s possible that she also isn’t differentiating between premium VOD and streaming and is still flat out saying the only route for Wonder Woman 1984 is a theatrical release. That seems more likely, especially when you hear what she has to say about the future of movie theaters.
In an interview with Reuters, Patty Jenkins cautioned that if movie theaters don’t get some financial assistance, whether it’s from the government or with new movies to bring audiences into theaters, it could spell doom for the entire movie theater industry. Jenkins said:
“If we shut this down, this will not be a reversible process. It could be the kind of thing that happened to the music industry, where you could crumble the entire industry by making it something that can’t be profitable. I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where the only option is to take your kids to watch a movie in your own living room and not have a place to go for a date.”
Jenkins seems to be referring to the arrival of downloadable music in the form of MP3s, something that changed the music industry forever, forcing them to adapt quickly and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Though the music industry didn’t crumble, it was restructured dramatically, and the money made from downloading and streaming music has made the industry far less profitable than it used to be. The same could happen to the film industry if we lose a lot of movie theaters, forcing most movies to be released on VOD. And Jenkins isn’t likely to hurt movie theaters even more by releasing Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and on premium VOD at the same time, something theater owners are staunchly against.
Even as AMC Theatres and Cinemark pledge to stay open in the face of having very few new movies to play in theaters, Regal Cinemas closing for an unknown period of time is a worrisome prospect. We could be looking at the permanent closure of many movie theaters in the near future if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t allow for movie theaters to safely reopen and audiences to feel comfortable about going back. It’s likely going to take a vaccine to get movie theaters back to the place they need to be, but by then, the damage may have already been done, and like Jenkins says, we might not be able to find our way back. That’s why she signed a letter to congress with dozens of other filmmakers, imploring our leaders to provide financial assistance to movie theaters. Hopefully they’ll listen.
As of now, Wonder Woman 1984 is set for release in theaters on Christmas Day.
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