Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman in “Wonder Woman 1984.”
With six weeks to go before “Wonder Woman 1984” is set to debut in theaters, Warner Bros. executives are still debating the film’s release strategy.
According to multiple media reports, studio execs are torn between a strategy that would see the movie released on Christmas then added to the company’s HBO Max streaming service in January, and a postponement of the theatrical debut until summer 2021.
Representatives from Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that internal deliberations are leaning toward the hybrid release model. This would allow theater chains to make a profit off ticket sales during the initial release and then drive subscriber sign-ups to the company’s streaming platform.
However, if “Wonder Woman 1984” goes to HBO Max, it’s unlikely that theaters would get a cut, like AMC does from its premium video on-demand deal with Universal. After all, HBO Max is a monthly subscription fee, not a pay-per-play on-demand service.
So, it’s unclear how theater chains would feel such a slim theatrical window with little chance of profit once the film arrives in the home market.
Variety points out in its report that “Wonder Woman 1984″ is easily a billion-dollar grossing box office blockbuster, something that is hard for studio executives to ignore.
The promise of a coronavirus vaccine, which could be widely distributed as early as mid-2021 could push Warner Bros. to hold onto the film until next summer. After all, AT&T chief John Stankey has already signaled his lack of confidence in the recovery of the film industry in the near-term.
In October, he said “Tenet,” which released in August internationally and in September domestically, wasn’t a “home run.” While the Christopher Nolan film performed well in foreign markets, it garnered just $55 million so far during its run in the U.S. and Canada.
That paltry showing coupled with a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the U.S. could persuade Warner Bros. to move “Wonder Woman 1984” to June or July of 2021.
If the film does get postponed, there will be only one major movie release left in 2020: “The Croods: A New Age” due out Thanksgiving. This would devastate theater chains and likely push a number of them into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Cinema chains big and small have already warned that they need new content in order to remain open and operational. These businesses are bleeding cash and struggling to stay open long enough to get new movies to show the public.
Without demand-inducing titles like “Wonder Woman 1984,” these chains have said they will need to file bankruptcy in order to stay open and restructure their debt. Especially considering that the movie calendar doesn’t have many blockbuster releases until March 2021.