Wonder Woman 1984 will be free on HBO Max for one month, after which it will only be in theaters and later paid video on demand, rental and to buy.
Wonder Woman 1984 will be free on HBO Max for one month, after which it will only be in theaters and later paid video on demand, rental and to buy. Warner Bros. announced the unprecedented move to release the much anticipated sequel to the 2017 smash hit in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time on Wednesday evening. The announcement shook the movie world, given the implications for cinema going forward. Never before has a big budget studio tentpole been released on streaming the same day as theaters.
However, the move was unavoidable, given the constant delays to Wonder Woman 1984's release, mostly caused by the continued shutdown of major cinema markets as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Even director Patty Jenkins, who has long insisted the movie is made to be seen on the big screen, admitted, via Twitter, that it's better to see it on HBO Max at home rather than risking going to a theater in areas where it isn't safe to do so yet. However, there is a time limit for fans to catch it on HBO Max, before it leaves the streaming service for an extended period.
According to the release information (via CNN Business) the unprecedented move to stream Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time will only last for one month. Following that, the movie will be removed from HBO Max and will only be available to watch at the cinema. The release plan then defaults to a more traditional one, although extended, with the movie staying in theaters as long as possible, and then getting a more traditional home release, which will include being available on video on demand services, as well as to rent or buy physically.
It's an interesting strategy, and one which proves Warner is likely using the release of Wonder Woman 1984 to promote HBO Max and increase subscriber numbers. The streaming service has lagged behind its rivals, like Disney+ and Netflix, in gaining subscribers, and there is a thought this release allows the studio to kill two birds with one stone - allowing WB to make money in theaters and get more subscribers for HBO Max. The strategy shows Warner Media sees the streaming platform as the future of its core business, with this major release standing alongside Zack Snyder's Justice League, available exclusively via HBO Max in 2021, as blockbusters going straight to the service.
What this means for the long-term future of theaters is still unclear. Warner Bros. will likely use Wonder Woman 1984 as a litmus test to see if its worth releasing high-budget movies to streaming. If the experiment works, the studio may well join Disney in releasing select blockbusters on streaming only in the years to come, a warning sign for theater chains which have already been devastated by the pandemic in 2020.