Tuesday, January 5, 2021

WW84 appears to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Just imagine the damage if it hadn't "exceed[ed] box office projections"

A few notes on the opening of Wonder Woman 1984:

1. Some PR firms are definitely earning their money on this. 












2.  For all the happy talk, it is important to remember that this isn't just whistling past the graveyard; it's whistling from inside the coffin as it's being lowered into the ground. The movie had a North American box office take of less than $17 million its opening weekend despite Christmas falling on a Friday and having the theaters largely to itself. By comparison, the first film had a take of over $100 million for its opening weekend. 

 Streaming alleviated things slightly with WW84 basically acting as a loss leader for HBOMax but because of the size and business model of the service (a topic for another post), the impact was probably trivial. 

Note: if you read about a bump in viewership, make sure to check out the fine print. An increase in subscribers who stay past the free trial would be notable. An increase in short termers or "activated subscribers"? Not so much.

According to AT&T, HBO Max had 12.6 million activated subscribers as of early December 2020. As of September 30, the service had a nominal total of 28.7 million paying subscribers, including HBO pay television customers whose subscriptions make them eligible for free access to HBO Max, but who have not yet activated.

3. When you take into account the budget (considerably more than the first film), marketing, PR and all the other assorted expenses then factor in the complexities on industry accounting, Warners is probably on track to lose around $200 million on a film that was expected to bring in hundreds of million

Under these circumstances and given the mediocre reviews (particularly compared to the first film), the official company line about greenlighting WW3 is plainly bullshit. The company is desperate to put the best possible spin on these numbers, but if there had been any doubt about going ahead with the franchise this reception would not have tipped things in its favor.

Completing the trilogy was a no-brainer. Wonder Woman is one of the DCEU's strongest properties (commercially, critically and with the fans),  Gal Gadot looks to have the makings of a major star, and in an industry rightly criticized for a lack of diversity, this is one of the very few major franchises with a female lead and a female director. The timing of the announcement is just another attempt at downplaying the disaster.

4. Though John Stankey has done lots of stupid things since the merger, this is one of the rare catastrophes that can't be laid at the feet of the executives. The pandemic left them with no good choices and if people are still avoiding theaters a year from now, the effects on the industry will be devastating.

 It's not just the billions in lost box office revenue. There's a whole ecosystem here. Big theatrical releases create IP value and make stars. Every other aspect of the industry feeds off that process. When Netflix offers Gal Gadot $20 million to appear in a picture, it is paying for the boost Wonder Woman gave her career.

For all the hype about streaming, as far as I can tell, none of the services have actually made a star nor produced a franchise with any significant second life. Nothing is on the horizon to take the place of the direct and indirect revenue and IP value creation of theatrical releases. If they go away they will leave yet another huge post-covid hole in the economy. 

1 comment:

  1. Larger point stands cuz I can't think of another example, *but*, in fairness, "Stranger Things" has certainly launched Millie Bobby Brown as a star (Godzilla franchise lead! Plenty more to come!) and given David Harbour an honest shot (Hellboy reboot, maaaybe more to come?).