Wonder Woman 1984: Does HBO Max Premiere End Theatrical Releases as We Know Them?

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More major blockbusters will follow Wonder Woman’s example, the only question is which. All eyes are obviously shifting to how Disney will handle the release of their next Marvel Studios effort, Black Widow. The film has similarly been delayed multiple times due to the pandemic and is now slated to bow in May 2021. However, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said just last week that the studio was pleased with Mulan’s Disney+ PVOD rollout. He went on to add, “We saw [enough] positive results to know that we had something in the premiere access strategy.”

It is reasonable to speculate that both WB and Disney are the best equipped to transition to a model that either completely skips theaters or uses a “day and date” theatrical/streaming release for their blockbusters. With Disney+ becoming one of the most popular streaming services in Western markets, and Warners’ HBO Max building off the already strong reputation (and HBO Now infrastructure) cultivated by premium cable network HBO, the two have stronger foundations in place to experiment like they have been with Mulan and now Wonder Woman 1984.

It’s also worth noting, however, that HBO Max may wish to drive up subscriptions more aggressively, which might be one reason the streamer is not adding a premium to Wonder Woman like Disney did with Mulan.

Meanwhile Universal Pictures and Paramount are also entering the streaming realm, with Universal’s Peacock recently launching and Paramount preparing to rebrand CBS All Access as something more recognizable as a Paramount-wide service. However, neither has the subscription base of Disney or even HBO Max. One could speculate if putting the next Fast and Furious on Peacock might drive up subscriptions, but the service doesn’t seem quite ubiquitous enough yet to fully make up for the loss of international revenue associated with that franchise.

Sony Pictures and Lionsgate, meanwhile, have no streaming services. Presumably this could lead those studios, and Universal and Paramount as well, to explore more traditional PVOD strategies through partnerships with third parties, similar to the one Universal mapped out with AMC Theatres, but that is really an unknown in the present.

Nevertheless, Wonder Woman 1984 has crossed the Rubicon, and in doing so it signals they’re all headed this way in the long run. Once again Diana is the first to go where no man, or superhero movie, has dared travel before. She will not be the last.

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