Streaming services were already in a major growth phase and 2020 is likely the year we end up seeing as having been the one that tipped the scales fully in its favor. With pandemic-related closings in movie theaters (and everywhere else), streaming ended up being something of a lifeline for those hunkered down in the pandemic. Numbers greatly increased across almost all platforms (RIP Quibi). This year also marked a full shift in new releases eschewing big theater runs in favor of just appearing on a particular platform. The first movie to take the proverbial plunge was Wonder Woman 1984 which debuted in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day. But with all the fanfare it still wasn’t totally clear just how well it would perform on the streaming service. Now we know, with HBO Max releasing it’s Christmas Day numbers for Wonder Woman 1984.
It’s reported that half of all HBO Max subscribers were in a holiday streaming mode for Wonder Woman 1984 on its opening day. For context, it was reported earlier in the month that HBO Max had roughly 12.6 million active subscribers, which was up 50% quarter-over-quarter. It’s likely at least part of that (insane) bump was due to the announcement that the platform would be releasing its movies at the same time they entered theaters. For all you non-math folks out there, that would put the Christmas Day streaming numbers at around six million eyeballs checking out the movie.
This turnout for the movie on the HBO Max platform is likely to have outperformed expectations around the film. On the first day, HBO Max experienced some glitches in being able to watch the movie, likely related to a greater-than-anticipated server load. These numbers, combined with (relatively speaking) solid box office numbers on opening weekend, have to make Warner Bros. more than a little excited about the shift they made to push it to a streaming platform sooner than later.
When it was announced that Wonder Woman 1984 would be available for streaming the same day it entered theaters, it marked a seismic shift in the way we’ve approached film releases. Overnight, gone were the days when a blockbuster film would hit theaters and folks would head on down to get their tickets to get a glimpse of the latest hit film.
Considering the restrictions around movie theater attendance and the sharp decline in box office sales, this move was a logical, albeit somewhat risky one. Would viewers be willing to pony up the cost of HBO Max’s monthly rate to watch instead of going to the theater? It appears that question has been answered and was at least partially responsible for the studio quickly confirming Wonder Woman 3 with both Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins back.
And of course, this is only the beginning. Both Warner Bros. as well as Disney with their Disney+ streaming service have let it be known that this release schedule plan is the new industry standard. While Wonder Woman 1984 might have been the first test case, even a bearish turnout wouldn’t have stopped the streaming wars from heating up. HBO Max bought a lot of new customers this past month on the back of this movie and the brick-and-mortar theater chains may be headed out of business.