We’ll have to wait and see what success WarnerMedia drums up in regards to Wonder Woman 1984‘s impact on HBO Max subscribers. But from a box office perspective over Christmas, with 60% of the 5,8K theater domestic market closed by COVID-19, the DC sequel posted a record result for the pandemic since theaters reopened in late August, with $16.7M at 2,151 locations. The first Wonder Woman opened to $103.2M over the first weekend in June.
In the same breath of reporting this weekend’s figures for WW1984, which now stands at $85M WW, Warners announced a threequel with Patty Jenkins writing and attached to direct, with Gal Gadot returning. No word on whether that will also be a simultaneous HBO Max and theatrical day and date release.
WW1984‘s opening bests the results of Croods: A New Age‘s $9.7M 3-day over Black Friday weekend, and Tenet‘s $9.3M 3-day over Labor Day weekend. Note that WW1984 had close to 40% of all theaters open, which repped 56% of its box office. This compared to Croods 2, which achieved its opening from 44% of all domestic theaters open, which repped 60% of the box office, versus Tenet, which had access to a marketplace where 55% of all theaters were open and repped 70% of the box office.
In regards to the holiday weekend’s other opening titles, Universal’s Tom Hanks western News of the World and Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman, they respectively earned $2.4M and $680K in spots 2 and 5. Uni also owned the No. 3 title, DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age, which brought in $1.7M in weekend 5 for a running $30.3M domestic total.
Roadside Attraction’s Pinocchio at 764 theaters debuted to $274,6K. Again, these aren’t the types of figures we’re used to for a Christmas holiday weekend, a week that’s typically one of the more lucrative ones of the year.
WW1984, News of the World and Promising Young Woman all earned B+ in terms of their CinemaScores. The first Wonder Woman earned an A back in 2017, but that was when more cities were available for polling.
Make no mistake, though, for a $200M planned DC event feature, which began its promotional drumroll all the way back at San Diego Comic-Con 2018 when director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine dropped footage after three-and-half weeks of production, this weekend’s box office result of Wonder Woman 1984 is a disaster by normal pre-pandemic marketplace standards. The question is whether Warner Bros. should have simply waited to release this event pic until later in the year, when the entire exhibition infrastructure is presumably back on track and the pandemic, as we’re expecting, will be restrained.
Wonder Woman is a soulful property, one of pride for women. It’s a movie that they will flock to the theaters to see in packs. The first 2017 movie saw its initial projections four weeks out start at $65M and finally clock to $103.2M; all largely due to the influx of women. The majority of that demo has been sidelined to watching the sequel at home, and dollars have been lost. Warners brass said previously when the decision was made about WW1984, that it was done to appease the fans. But if Marvel fans can wait a year for Black Widow, why can’t Wonder Woman fans wait for a sequel? The delay would only fuel the box office. Why do box office damage to a piece of lucrative IP by forcing a theatrical release when exhibition is barely alive and the feature can feasibly be copied via its HBO Max streaming drop?
Below a tweet from when the movie opened back in June 2017 from voiceover actress Julie Nathanson:
Already there is a clean, watchable copy of WW1984 out there on an accessible pirate site. With HBO Max consumers already experiencing glitches with the film, who is to say that those preferring the WW1984 experience at home won’t find their way over to pirated sites, and avoid signing up altogether? (Disney has the same dilemma, by the way, with Soul, which was released on Disney+ where that service is available, and abroad theatrically in those territories that don’t have Disney+).
However, these are the things that major studios need to take seriously before they start dropping movies day-and-date in theaters and on streaming services. You’re just plummeting the value of your individual feature assets.
While Warners didn’t report any specific numbers on the results of WW1984 on HBO Max they did say the following: “Nearly half of the platform’s retail subscribers viewing the film on the day of its arrival, along with millions of wholesale subscribers who have access to HBO Max via a cable, wireless, or other partner services. HBO Max also saw the total viewing hours on Friday more than triple in comparison to a typical day in the previous month” per a press release.
“Wonder Woman 1984 broke records and exceeded our expectations across all of our key viewing and subscriber metrics in its first 24 hours on the service, and the interest and momentum we’re seeing indicates this will likely continue well beyond the weekend,” said a statement from Andy Forssell, Executive Vice President and General Manager, WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer. “During these very difficult times, it was nice to give families the option of enjoying this uplifting film at home, where theater viewing wasn’t an option.”
Like all major studios, Warners has the dilemma during the pandemic of what to do with their event films on the shelf, while trying to leverage their streaming service. But there are theaters which were bareknuckling the pandemic, and they couldn’t live without WW1984 making another theatrical release date change.
“There was a huge push on the part of mid-size and smaller exhibitors to really make our movies available where markets were open. You can see that’s where we had positive results in the South and the Midwest, as well as 10,000 private watch parties,” said Warner Bros. Domestic Theatrical Distribution Boss Jeff Goldstein, “What we were hearing from exhibition was: Give us content. These mid-sized and smaller exhibitors really serve a large part of the nation that isn’t accessible by many chains; they’ve been the backbone of the theatrical business for decades.”
Initially, a simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max day and date release of WW1984 was welcomed by exhibition, and understandable, given the studio’s circumstances during the pandemic. Disney, too, has eventized their once-conceived theatrical releases as in-home events, i.e. Soul, Mulan, and Hamilton. However, what added insult to injury for exhibition and the motion picture industry was WarnerMedia’s brazen announcement earlier this month that they’re planning to put their entire 2021 theatrical slate in both cinemas and HBO Max at the same time (on the service for 31 days). This continues to feel like a doomsday scenario for exhibition, and we’ll see how the marketplace plays it out once the pandemic lifts.
For all the fairy tale notions that any shortfall at the global box office here for WW1984 will be made up by HBO Max subscriptions, keep the following in mind: In order to make a ton of money, WarnerMedia needs to grow their subscriber base outside of HBO. AT&T reported during their third quarter that it had 38M subscribers between HBO pay-cable subs and HBO Max subs. AT&T CEO John Stankey recently reported at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference that HBO Max added 4M customer “activations” to reach 12.6M. WarnerMedia doesn’t make any money by merely activating current HBO subscribers into HBO Max subs with WW1984. They need to make greater outsider additions, and right now, HBO Max is only a US service. If 38M households became active over the holiday weekend with HBO Max, and assuming two tickets potentially bought per household, that’s 76M tickets unsold to WW1984. But, once again, the leverage of WW1984 on HBO Max was a marketing stunt to raise the streamer’s profile. Go figure.
A breakdown of how WW1984 fared:
–Only 5% of all theaters are open in Canada (repping 3% of the total Canadian box office). Warners went with a PVOD and theatrical release there for the DC sequel and in regards to pure B.O. made $4M.
–There were 10K private watch parties for WW1984 (such as Cinemark’s “Private Watch Parties” and AMC’s “Private Theater Rentals”, as well as National Amusements, Alamo Drafthouse, Marcus, Studio Movie Grill, Megaplex, Santikos, B&B Theaters, etc.). I’m told these alone repped 10% of the sequel’s weekend results.
–Imax domestic auditoriums, numbering 180, grossed $1.2M, repping 7% of the pic’s opening.
–The top 10 locations were: 1. District Megaplex Salt Lake City, 2. Victoria Ward Stadium Honolulu, 3. AMC Disney Springs Orlando, 4. Jordan Commons Megaplex Salt Lake City, 5. Santikos Palladium San Antonio, 6. Thanksgiving Point Lehi Megaplex Salt Lake City, 7. Cinemark West Jordan Salt Lake City, 8. AMC Thoroughbred Nashville, 9. Santikos Casa Blanca San Antonio, 10. Geneva Vineyard Megaplex Salt Lake City.
–The top 10 DMA markets were: 1. Dallas, 2. Salt Lake City, 3. Phoenix, 4. Houston, 5. Greater New York Metro area (NJ, CT, and Upstate NY theaters), 6. Orlando, 7. Atlanta, 8. Tampa, 9. Miami, 10. Austin.
In the uneven success of the DC universe post-Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise (uneven meaning when you compare it to Disney’s powerhouse, Marvel), Wonder Woman was one of the few event pics that worked, along with Aquaman and Suicide Squad. After Aquaman became the first DC movie to reach $1.1 billion, God knows the studio had billion dollar box office starry eyes for WW1984. Following the pic’s launch at SDCC 2018, the pic got a boost at Brazil Comic-Con last December, and was further boosted again during the studio’s late August DC Fandome virtual conference.
While no major studio is spending as much as they normally do during pre-pandemic times when NY and LA are open, to get to these types of weekend box office numbers, Warner had to spend something. As of last weekend, iSpot calculated that Warner shelled out $17M in TV ads for WW1984, which reached close to 800M impressions.
Social media analyst RelishMix says that the Jenkins-directed sequel nabbed a bountiful social media universe of 325.6M before opening because of the cross-promotional triangulation of Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Universe and growing HBO Max digital channels.
“Platform activity on YouTube has a robust 21 owned videos and 90+ reposted videos feeding 177.3M views. On Facebook, fans for the film have grown to 2.4M with 33 videos in the 12 months driving over 14M views. Awareness/reach is indexing strong in relation to Covid trends across digital platforms, activity is exceptional with Gal Gadot cast activation,” reports RelishMix which also spotted that positive convo for the movie was a 10 out of 10 on their index.
Of the notable pushes on social, Warner dropped the sequel’s three-minute opening sequence on Dec. 15, “a bold move of hooking and engaging the audience and drive more early activation of the HBO Max app on OTT devises and smart TV’s” says RelishMix; the clip registering close to 6.5M views.
RelishMix counts that the combined activated social media follower reach of the WW1984 cast of Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright stands at 62.3M followers, of which Gadot accounts for 94% with 58.7M followers. She has worked a tremendous amount of overtime in promoting the movie on social, and the talk show circuit, i.e. The Tonight Show. Her Instagram video posts are events unto themselves, i.e. her press junket prep drew 4.4M views, her glam prep sung to the Indiana Jones theme did close to 3.2M views, and the silly music video she made with Wiig, which she showed off on The Tonight Show generated 3M, see below:
As we told you yesterday, critics eventually soured on WW1984 on Rotten Tomatoes from when reviews first hit, with the sequel’s rating dropping from 89% certified fresh on Dec. 16 to a current 65% fresh. Audiences have also been down on part 2 with an updated Screen Engine/Comscore PostTrak figure of 78% in the top two boxes (down from 82% positive) and a 67% definite recommend (up from 65%). Kids under 12 were high on WW1984 at 86% positive (down from 91% on Friday) and a 67% must-see. Updated demos show a 50/50 split between men and women with 58% over 25 and 36% over 35 years old. Diversity demos were 39% Caucasian, 25% Hispanic, 23% African American, & 13% Asian/Other. The first Wonder Woman on PostTrak drew 53% to 47% women vs. men, while the total positive score showed women enjoying the first film a little bit more than men, 89% to 85%.
While it will be harder for Warners to make bank on Wonder Woman 1984, it could be slightly easier for Universal on News of the World. The pic cost a net $38M. Uni has already sold foreign to Netflix, as we first reported, and the Paul Greengrass-directed feature is on a short theatrical window of 17 days, eyeing a PVOD release next month. Any Oscar buzz will only do good for the pic’s road ahead. News of the World made $1M on Friday, fell 23% on Saturday with $780K and is eyeing a $610K Sunday. Critics are 84% certified fresh. Movie was split 50/50 male-female with 70% of the crowd older than 35, 29% over 55. Caucasians showed up at 77%, Hispanics at 12%, African Americans at 5%, Asian/other at 5%. New of the World‘s best markets were the Midwest and Southwest. Top markets were Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Tampa Orlando, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Nashville, and Kansas City.
RelishMix says that News Of The World‘s social media campaign was propped by Universal Pictures social channels totaling a 42.4M social media universe with 30.5M fans from Facebook and other channels in the 4M range. Materials are being very carefully dropped on YouTube with the trailer at 9.5M views and the interview BTS with Tom Hanks at 2M views. “But when a studio slowly drops materials, we see either cautiousness of a final cut that is struggling — or a sense of confidence that the word-of-mouth impact for the wide release will drive a very strong response,” reads RelishMix. Hanks has kept a low profile on promoting his movies to his 38.5M fans across FB, Twitter and Instagram this year.
Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman remained strong, with critics following its Sundance premiere back in January, and currently carries a 91% certified fresh. Carey Mulligan is an obvious Best Actress contender heading into Oscar season and the pic arrives here in the wake of her LA Film Critics Best Actress win and also filmmaker Emerald Fennell’s Best Screenplay win. Promising Young Woman made $260K on Friday and Saturday and is expected to gross $160K today. The pic’s marketing over the past few weeks has included TV/cable advertising in over 25 markets and a digital campaign push aimed at younger demos. Those who bought tickets were 63% female, with 74% over 25 and 36% over 35 years old. The single largest quadrant was 25–34 year olds at 38%. Focus Features reports that they conducted exit polls yesterday in Washington D.C., Paramus NJ, and Dallas TX with the pic scoring an 89% in the top two boxes – 51% excellent and 38% very good score (19 points above norm).
Another PostTrak report shows a lower positive of 73% in the top two boxes with a 43% recommend. It is a dark movie, and Mulligan plays against her good girl character she normally portrays. Diversity mix was 59% Caucasian, 17% African American, 17% Hispanic, 7% Asian/Other. Promising Young Woman played best on the Coasts along in the South. The best markets were Dallas (6.8% of domestic B.O.), Phoenix (5.4%), New York (5.3%), Houston (4.6%), Austin (3%), Atlanta (3%), Orlando (3%), Miami (2.7%), D.C. (2.6%), and Tampa (2.5%).
Mulligan is not activated on social media, but a positive word of mouth prevails per RelishMix ever since the pic’s debut at Sundance. That buzz since January “extends over a year from the first trailer drop however the social rollout is platforming out with two trailers on YouTube (7.3M views). Plus, there’s a stack of 15 sound track videos from Maya B, Carmen DeLeon, Charli XCX, Paris Hilton and many more. On Facebook, 17 videos have clocked over 12M views with several strong boosts as fans discuss where the film will stream first,” says RelishMix.
The top 10 movies for Dec. 25-27:
1.) Wonder Woman 1984 (WB) 2,151 theaters/$16.7MWk 1
2.) News of the World (Uni) 1,900 theaters, 3-day: $2.4M/Wk 1
3.) Croods: A New Age (Uni) 1,726 theaters (-180), 3-day: $1.7M (-17%), Total: $30.3M/Wk 5
4.) Monster Hunter (Sony) 1,817 theaters (+81), 3-day: $1.125M (-49%)/Total: $4.2M/Wk 2
5.) Promising Young Woman (Focus) 1,310 theaters, 3-day: $680K/Wk 1
6.) Fatale (Lionsgate) 1,168 theaters (+61), 3-day: $660K (-28%), Total: $1.96M/Wk 2
7.) Pinocchio (RSA) 764 theaters, 3-day: $274,6K/Wk 1
8.) Elf (NL) 300 theaters (-380) 3-day: $111K (-70%)/Total: $174.5M/Wk 7 of re-release
9.) The War With Grandpa (101) 515 theaters (-288), 3-day: $91K (-47%), Total: $18.4M/Wk 12
10.) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (WB) 300 theaters (-270) 3-day: $78K (-63%)/Total: $73.8M/Wk. 5 of release