COVID-19 has shaken the whole film industry. Releasing anything now needs to answer the question about how to distribute it. Do you put it out in theaters, streaming, a mix of the two in some way? Every studio has handled it differently, from Warner Bros. putting its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max to duel distributions from Disney, which put some of its blockbusters in theaters and its streaming service Disney Plus. Filmmakers have weighed in, and the latest to do so is Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman and its recent sequel.
The Wonder Woman filmmaker spoke about her thoughts on the theatrical side of the industry versus the streaming side during CinemaCon. She weighed both the business of it all, but also the experience. To her, the movies put on Netflix, Hulu, and other platforms look “fake” as she does not “hear” or “read” about those releases. To the Emmy nominated director, it does not work to create “legendary greatness.”
The latest movie released by her was last December’s Wonder Woman 1984. Making the decision to have it in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day was tough. The conversations led to the simultaneous release, which she admitted was the “best choice” out of all the terrible ideas. However, she was not happy about this regardless as she aims for the theatrical experience, especially when it comes to a major DC superhero flick.
Despite these criticisms, there are positives. While Wonder Woman in her mind is meant to be seen on the big screen, TV is another story. The longer format for the right story, Jenkins says, works in that regard. Patty Jenkins has plenty of TV experience with The Killing, Arrested Development, and I Am the Night.
Not wanting movies like Wonder Woman to be seen on a TV at release is not just Jenkins’ opinion. Other filmmakers have spoken against streaming for movies that are made to be seen in a theater. Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) is about to release his sci-fi epic, Dune. A few weeks ago, he came under fire for saying watching his upcoming movie on a TV is like driving a “speedboat in your bathtub.” He has been quite vocal about wanting people to go to their local theater to experience his latest project.
Streaming has proven to have pros and cons. People who looked forward to Wonder Woman 1984 and other movies in the past year have had a chance to watch it safely in their homes without risky getting COVID-19. Disney Plus has managed to make streaming new movies profitable by charging premium rates for movies like Black Widow and Cruella. But the experience of watching a blockbuster movie in your living room is still different from viewing it in a theater regardless. People have different setups in their homes, with some that can rival a theatrical experience but most likely won’t have a big enough TV and fancy enough sound system to compensate. The pandemic has proven that choice matters, but when it comes to making money to keep the industry moving, it can be challenging.