The brutal year that has been 2020 for the movie business will wrap up with one final, disappointing whimper when Wonder Woman 1984 makes its debut this weekend. The highly-anticipated superhero sequel had, at one point, been positioned to be one of the highest-grossing movies of the year, possibly looking at a $1 billion box office total. Instead, it will be released in relatively few theaters at a time when many moviegoers are especially hesitant to do much of anything in public. In truth, the latest DC Comics adaptation will be released in fewer theaters than Tenet was when it was released back in August.
According to a new report, only around 40 percent of movie theaters in the U.S. are currently open, which equates to roughly 2,300. In August when Warner Bros. released Tenet, around 65 percent were open. That experiment proved to be disastrous as Christopher Nolan's thriller earned just $57.8 million domestically, finishing with $362 million worldwide. That was far below initial expectations. As such, Wonder Woman 1984 is expected to make around $10 million in its opening frame. Considering that the original pulled in more than $100 million on its opening weekend in 2017, that is hugely disappointing.
But 2020 has not been a typical year and the studio had tough decisions to make. Director Patty Jenkins' big-budget superhero flick, which once again sees Gal Gadot reprising her role as the iconic hero, had already been delayed several times. It was eventually decided by WarnerMedia that the movie would be released in whatever theaters are available on Christmas day. At the same time, it will also be made available to HBO Max subscribers for a full month at no additional cost. Tenet, on the other hand, was exclusively in theaters. So there is reason to believe the box office earnings will be far thinner in this case.
This could provide a window into 2021 for WarnerMedia, which is not expected to be a big one at the box office. The studio recently made the industry-shaking announcement that its entire 2021 movie slate will debut on HBO Max and in theaters on the same day. Though these movies will get an international theatrical release. Still, it is estimated that the company is leaving billions on the table by trying to bolster its big streaming service. Many industry analysts believe moviegoing will return to more normal levels, possibly by mid-2021. As such, the decision to move next year's full slate to HBO Max may have been pre-emptive. And costly, in more ways than one. A-list talent across Hollywood is not happy about the move, which may make it challenging for the studio to lock down big names for future projects.
Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig also star in the sequel. As of this writing, it holds a 79 percent approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The first entry, for what it's worth, carries a 93 percent rating. Wonder Woman 1984 arrives on December 25 in theaters and on HBO Max in the U.S. This news comes to us via Deadline.