Despite still being in the middle of a pandemic, Wonder Woman 1984 will release on Christmas Day. Even though the film is one of the biggest releases of the year, the film will open in fewer theaters than Tenet was when it released at the end of this summer.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Warner Bros. and director Christopher Nolan pushed for a theatrical release to Tenet, with many major theater branches opening up specifically so they could feature Tenet. When Tenet was finally released, it was only in 2,930 theaters. By comparison, the 2020 releases of The Hunt and The Rhythm Section each made a little over $5 million, and yet both opened in more than 3,000 theaters. With Tenet making only $57 million domestically, it’s no wonder Warner Bros. doesn’t want to open Wonder Woman 1984 in as many theaters.
According to Deadline, about 65% of theaters were open for Tenet’s release in August, whereas right now for Wonder Woman 1984’s release, there are only about 40% of theaters open. The number is even smaller in Canada, which has 40 theaters open throughout the entire country.
When Wonder Woman opened in 2017, the film received $103 million in its opening weekend, eventually making $412 million domestically, and $822 million worldwide. As of right now, estimates are showing that within its first three days in release, Wonder Woman 1984 will probably only make $10 million, and will likely only make between $20-$25 million from December 25 to January 3.
Still, for a release during a pandemic, Wonder Woman 1984’s outlook is stronger than most weekends. Last weekend, which saw the release of Monster Hunter and Fatale, the top 10 films combined only grossed $6.7 million. As of right now, the top 10 at the box office is full of holiday rereleases, and small runs of films from major studios. For example, Robert De Niro’s The War with Grandpa is currently enjoying its 11th weekend in the top 10, despite only making a combined $18 million.
While Warner Bros.’ release plan for Tenet failed miserably, in many cases hurting theaters that decided to open for the latest Christopher Nolan film, Warner Bros. has changed its release strategy going forward. Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first of 17 films that will premiere on HBO Max the same day they come to theaters. This includes major releases like In the Heights, The Suicide Squad, and The Matrix 4. Even though this seems like a way for Warner Bros. to forego a massive theatrical push, and expand their HBO Max subscribers, the plan was apparently not told to filmmakers, which had led to some producers suing HBO Max for the new release schedule.
It seems as though when it comes to Wonder Woman 1984’s release, Warner Bros. is more interested in how the film does worldwide, rather than its domestic release. The lack of theaters that are open, and the same-day release on HBO Max will likely cause a big cut to Wonder Woman 1984’s profits, although with new money being allocated for theater owners in the near future, and the coronavirus vaccine starting its rollout, hopefully, it won’t be too long before films like Wonder Woman 1984 gets over 3,000 screens once more.