November 18, 2020
Following WarnerMedia’s announcement that it will simultaneously release the highly anticipated DC Comics superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day, scuttlebutt suggested major exhibitors would balk screening the Gal Gadot-starrer without an exclusive theatrical window.
However, AMC Entertainment, parent to the world’s largest theatrical chain, AMC Theatres, is breaking from convention and supporting Warner Bros.’ decision to bypass any theatrical window, in addition to transactional VOD revenue — an interesting move considering the chain (along with Cinemark) has a PVOD revenue-sharing agreement in place with Universal Pictures in exchange for narrowing theatrical windows down to 17 days for some titles.
In a statement from AMC CEO Adam Aron, the executive said AMC would “eagerly” showcase Wonder Woman 1984 on its 11,000 screens worldwide regardless of the absence of any theatrical exclusivity.
Aron said AMC had been in “active and deep dialogue” with Warner to determine the best release strategy for director Patty Jenkins’ follow-up to her 2017 box office hit Wonder Woman, which generated $822 million worldwide, in the middle of a pandemic.
“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,” Aron said, adding that the chain continues to believe that the traditional theatrical window benefits consumers, filmmakers, studios and exhibitors.
“Even so, we also have clearly demonstrated this year that we are flexible and remain open to evolving long-standing business models, provided that we do so in ways that improve the industry ecosystem for all players,” Aron wrote. He said the chain has “instituted novel (release) approaches” with other movie studios during the pandemic.
AMC posted a $905 million loss in its most-recent fiscal period, with revenue down 91% due to a dearth of studio new releases, shuttered screens in Los Angeles and New York, and limited seating at screens that are operating.
With WarnerMedia making Wonder Woman 1984 available on HBO Max, it is effectively undercutting the main reason consumers go to the cineplex. Max costs $15 monthly — about the same price as a movie ticket and concession. More importantly, Max offers new subs a free seven-day trial, which means a consumer could register an account, stream the movie and then cancel.
“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, CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group. “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.”
As a result, Wonder Woman 1984, with a reported $200 million production budget, could essentially become an expensive holiday freebie to existing Max subscribers and a lure to potential subscribers. Or moviegoers could frequent the cineplex without a vaccine in the middle of the flu season during a health crisis.
“Hit me up on Xmas day and show me where there will be open theaters,” said Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. “We should be up to 300,000 infections a day by then.”
Regardless, Aron is looking on the bright side.
“We hope movie lovers enjoy Wonder Woman 1984 during the holidays this year at AMC,” he wrote.