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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Departs HBO Max; Did It Just Crush Its VOD Window, Too?

Wonder Woman 1984
(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

As super hero sequels with a middling Rotten Tomatoes scores go, Wonder Woman 1984 is proving to be a compelling test subject, showcasing the movie release model of the future.

And the movie's theatrical window might not be the only thing that just got crushed. 

On Sunday, the WarnerMedia film ended a 31-day run on HBO Max. The first of many Warner Bros. theatrical titles to debut on the streaming service “day and date” with its premiere in movie houses, Wonder Woman 1984 is now exclusively available in theaters. No one seems to know what happens next. 

The film generated $1.6 million this past weekend (Jan. 22-24), playing in 2,013 theaters across North America. To date, it’s made $37.7 million domestically and $148 million worldwide. 

The first film in the current Warner Bros. franchise, 2017’s Wonder Woman, generated $822.3 million theatrically.

WarnerMedia has committed to premiering all 17 films on its 2021 theatrical slate day and date on HBO Max. And somewhat overlooked as the conglomerate has battled its creative partners over lost theatrical money has been, what happens to the film’s VOD revenue, as well as now niche home entertainment formats such as DVD and Blu-ray?

WarnerMedia has yet to announce when Wonder Woman 1984 will be available for rental and sale on transactional platforms. Just as the theatrical window was affected, home VOD revenue for the film will be undoubtedly impacted by the fact that the film was available for streaming for 31 days as part of HBO Max’s $15-a-month SVOD smorgasbord. 

Notably, the original Wonder Woman was one of the top-selling home entertainment titles in 2017, according to the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), which uses studio data to tally DVD, Blu-ray and digital sales and rentals of movie titles. 

According to data from sources including DEG assembled by The Numbers, Wonder Woman generated $98.3 million in DVD and Blu-ray sales alone. And disc sales only accounted for around 20% of home entertainment revenue that year. 

Notably, overall home entertainment is back on the rise. DEG hasn’t released full-year 2020 numbers, but total spending came in at $25.1 billion in 2019 vs. $20.5 billion in 2017, driven by increase in electronic sell-through. 

So the question is, did Wonder Woman 1984’s 31 days on HBO Max justify not only sacrificing hundreds of millions of dollars in worldwide theatrical revenue, but also perhaps several hundred million of dollars in home entertainment coin?

Following Wonder Woman 1984’s Dec. 25 premiere, WarnerMedia announced that it was “fast-tracking” development of a third franchise film, given what it called “record” signups on HBO Max. 

What are record sign-ups?

On Wednesday, WarnerMedia parent HBO Max will announce fourth quarter earnings, and it will almost undoubtedly touch on HBO Max subscriber growth. Notably, since AT&T last reported earnings in November, HBO Max has added distribution on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex. 

Notably, equity research company MoffettNathanson crunched the numbers in early December, shortly after WarnerMedia's slate announcement, and concluded that HBO Max would need to generate an additional 8.4 million subscribers--beyond what WarnerMedia was already projecting--to make up for losses in associated release windows. 

So another question: Will analysts be able to parse out growth of HBO Max based on customers who signed up for the service specifically to watch Wonder Woman 1984?