March 20, 2020
Warner Bros. remains on schedule to release summer tentpole title Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters June 4. The sequel to 2017 box office and home entertainment blockbuster Wonder Woman again stars Gal Gadot in the title role, along with co-stars Chris Pine, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen. Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal are newcomers in the sequel.
With Warner accelerating home entertainment releases for a number of theatrical titles due to coronavirus fears shuttering theaters worldwide, scuttlebutt suggested the studio would deliver Wonder Woman straight to retail channels and/or WarnerMedia Entertainment’s pending SVOD service, HBO Max.
But that scenario, thus far, seems remote, according to media reports citing people familiar with the situation.
Warner confirmed to several media sources the movie remains earmarked for the traditional 90-day theatrical window. The 2017 movie generated more than $820 million at the global box office.
“We’re looking to release the movie theatrically, that’s our plan,” Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution, told The Wrap.
The movie’s producer, Charles Roven, in a separate interview, said it was “ludicrous” to consider shipping Wonder Woman 1984 straight to over-the-top distribution.
“Everybody recognizes that, as interesting as streaming might be, if you want a huge, global worldwide box office, you’ve got to release it in a movie theater,” Roven said.
With a reported $200 million production budget, taking the movie directly to SVOD would significantly undermine the title’s return-on-investment. Offering the sequel directly to transactional VOD and packaged media would require significant unit sales that did not materialize for Wonder Woman.
Lightshed Partners analyst Richard Greenfield suggests that replacing the gross profit from a $1 billion theatrical release would require upwards of 21 million transactional VOD units sold at $30 each — the price point of the short-lived premium VOD distribution business model.
In addition, bypassing theatrical for a movie like Wonder Woman could permanently undermine the theatrical window — a scenario the National Association of Theatre Owners has no interest exploring.
The trade group said such a move ignores the underlying financial “logic” of studio investment in theatrical titles. To avoid catastrophic losses to the studios, NATO said big-budget titles must have the fullest possible theatrical release around the world.
“While one or two releases may forgo theatrical release, it is our understanding from discussions with distributors that the vast majority of deferred releases will be rescheduled for theatrical release as life returns to normal,” NATO said in a statement.