Patty Jenkins has joined the growing crowd of directors who immensely dislike your ability to watch their films on TV screens instead of movie screens during a global pandemic. She’ll be in good Hollywood company, as Tenet’s Christopher Nolan and Dune’s Denis Villeneuve have also gone out of their way to decry their films’ simultaneous release in theaters and on streaming services.
While Nolan, whose movie only debuted in theaters, has said he’s just thrilled with Tenet’s $363 million box office—compared to Inception’s $836 million—Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 was available to watch on HBO Max the same day it was released in theaters. It made a meager $166 million worldwide, in comparison to the original Wonder Woman movie’s $822 million, which makes sense, as it released on Christmas day 2020, during a resurgence of the covid-19 pandemic. That’s a huge dropoff, of course, and Jenkins is confident letting people watch the film in the comfort (and the safety) of their own homes hurt WW84's take. “[The home release] was detrimental to the movie,” said Jenkins said at CinemaCon, as reported by Deadline, adding, “I knew that could have happened.”
Echoing the same sentiments Nolan and Villeneuve have espoused, Jenkins makes movies to be seen on movie screens, which TV screens, no matter how ludicrous big, can never do justice. “I don’t think it plays the same on streaming, ever,” she said. “I’m not a fan of day-and-date and I hope to avoid it forever. I make movies for the big screen experience.”
To which I say: Duh? Yeah, of course Wonder Woman 1984 made less money because people could watch it at home. But that statement ignores several mitigating factors that forced the hand of the studios to make these films available for people to watch at home, perhaps first and foremost the fact there was and is a global pandemic going on. Tenet was released during covid-19's first summer, when movie theaters were barely open and very few people felt it was worth venturing out to see a movie, let alone Nolan’s incomprehensible latest. When Wonder Woman 1984 premiered over Christmas weekends, all the theaters in major U.S. cities like Los Angeles and New York City had been closed once more. For many people, the only way to see the movie was at home, via HBO Max.
Look, I’m not going to say these big movie studios are nobly fighting selfish directors to bring safe entertainment to the masses, and yeah, they release the movies online in hopes of driving subscriptions to their streaming services. But these theaters also knew how bad these types of releases would cannibalize their predicted box office, and I guarantee they hated losing that money, so this was the best solution they had. Happily, even Jenkins recognizes this, stating “It was the best choice in a bunch of bad choices at the moment,” although she also found the decision “heart-breaking.” (Back in December 2020 ahead of release, Jenkins was more positive about the idea.)
It just sucks that directors are still complaining about their artistic visions being destroyed when it was the best that could be done. Watching movies in theaters can be a magical, irreplaceable experience, but so is not getting the coronavirus. And man, if I’d contracted it while watching the nonsense that was some of Wonder Woman 1984's worst moments, I’d never go to the theaters again on principle.
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