One of the most high-profile businesses to be severely impacted by the current lockdown is the film industry. Each new day brings a new record of low earnings at the box office. And yet, despite the current pessimism regarding the theatrical business model, Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff recently confirmed yet again that Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 will release in theaters.
"We are committed to - and are excited about - releasing Tenet in theaters this summer or whenever theaters reopen. We remain supportive of the theatrical experience and our exhibition partners, and are confident that our tentpole titles, including Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984, are exactly the type of films that will have people eager to return to theaters,"
There has been a steady stream of fans asking for highly anticipated movies to be released online, either thought subscription streaming or VOD. A few months ago, releasing a new film directly online would have been unthinkable to Hollywood studios. But in the current state of lockdown, with companies suffering a severe cash crunch, many are testing the waters online by releasing small-to-mid-budget movies to VOD, with Trolls: World Tour recently topping the streaming charts after a fully digital release.
However, big-budget movies are a whole different ballgame, since the amount of money these films need to make in order to just break even looks to be impossible to achieve currently with a purely digital distribution model. Keeping this fact in mind, WarnerMedia boss John Stankey also reaffirmed his belief that waiting for a theatrical release for potential blockbusters is still the right way to go.
"Theatrical films have always been a major part of the our ecosystem. I fully expect that as we evaluate our business going forward, we will continue to champion creative work that is worthy of the theatrical experience."
Both Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 are among the most highly anticipated upcoming movies with huge price tags attached to them. The former is a Christopher Nolan movie, and the filmmaker has promised that it is his biggest project to date, featuring actors from around the world and multiple exotic shooting locations.
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman 1984 is a superhero movie, and the CGI budget alone for the feature is five times the cost of a mid-budget movie. Warner is betting big on both films and hoping to score a billion+ at the box office with their release.
And yet, the chances of that happening any time soon are looking steadily bleaker. Even if theaters open soon, it will be a long time before general audiences feel safe enough to sit in a crowded theater just for the sake of watching a movie.
And just because America opens its theaters does not mean the rest of the world will follow suit. Foreign markets bring in half or more of the box office money for Hollywood movies, which means Warner needs theater chains across the world working at full capacity to see the kind of box office stats they're chasing. It could be several months or even years before that happens. That's a long time to wait for an upcoming film before the general public loses interest completely. The Hollywood Reporter was first to bring us this news.