Hollywood’s ‘We Are Not In Kansas Anymore’ Moment

LOS ANGELES – To explain why WarnerMedia decided to release the much-anticipated big-budget “Wonder Woman 1984” in theaters simultaneously and on the streaming service HBO Max as the company’s chief executive. Jason killer, Called the classic Hollywood film “The Wizard of Oz”.

“We are no longer in Kansas,” Mr. Killer said in a statement.

Not now, he said, will the success of the film be judged only by box office revenues, which it earns in theaters. Instead, it will be partially measured by the number of HBO Max customers it is able to attract. And as Dorothy enters the technicolor world of Oz, Hollywood feels as if it is stepping into a new era – with streaming at the center.

The year-end holiday season usually means theaters are packed with blockbuster crowd players, award lovers – and moviegoes. not this year. Coronaviruses are open and many theaters close. Struggling to attract viewers, Many studios pushed the release dates of major films to 2021 or created a hybrid model in which cinemas still operating could show new releases while also making them available via streaming or on-demand services.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is by far the most prominent example released using the hybrid model. But when it appears on HBO Max on Christmas day, it will join marquee, holiday-season films such as Pixar’s animated “Soul,” and DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods: A New Age” box. It was expected to be at the office but now the possibility is mainly seen in the living rooms of the people.

For companies that have their own streaming platforms, such as WarnerMedia and Disney, Releasing films in this way is now seen as an opportunity to drive membership. Both companies have said the moves will only run through the epidemic, but they have recently shied away from their executive responsibilities to make it clear that streaming is the new priority. (Disney, for example, now has a central division that decides how its content is distributed, a change in strategy that puts Disney + at the top of the studio’s priorities.) And viewers might not want to Go back to the old way the studio was released. Films that gave special rights to theaters for 90 days.

“There will be a new normal,” said Jason Skwyer, editor of “The New Business Book,” a professor and a professor at the University of Southern California’s Cinematic Arts. “Over the years, there has been a lot of tension between theatrical exhibition and studio distribution but not much change. The epidemic has triggered change. “

It was not that long ago that Hollywood viewed streaming as an unwanted extremism. Many years ago, when Netflix began seriously competing for the Oscars, conservatives thought of the best prestigious awards on films that were only released theatrically. (This year, bowing to the epidemic reality, Motion picture academy Announced that the films could release a theatrical release and be eligible for Oscar consideration.)

Nevertheless, studios have long wanted to shorten the special window given to cinemas. Theater chains aggressively lobbied him, worrying that people would soon hesitate to buy tickets for a film he could watch at home.

The sanctity of theatrical release was still to be protected after the epidemic began to lockdown. In April, Universal Pictures released a Successful video-on-demand release For the “Trolls World Tour” and said it would make more films available in this way without a special theatrical run. Adam Aron, CEO of AMC, the world’s largest theater operator, called the move “clearly unacceptable” and said his company would no longer be booking any universal films.

By July, however, the two companies had signed a multiyear deal, under which Universal Movies would play in AMC theaters for at least 17 days before becoming available in-house via premium video-on-demand or PVOD. Last week, Universal signed similar deals with Cinemark, the third-largest theater chain in North America, and Cineplex, Canada’s top performer, adding provisions to open movies up to $ 50 million in ticket sales. The special dramatic window will span 31 days.

The shorter window means that the studio could theoretically spend less on marketing, typically required when theater and home video debuts are three months apart. And studios typically hold 80 percent of premium on-demand revenue, while ticket sales from theatrical releases are roughly split 50-50 between studios and theater companies.

“Our hope is that by putting PVOD in the market, we are improving the economics for the studio and will result in more films that will be released dramatically,” said Universal’s vice president and chief distribution officer Peter Levinson. Subscription services like Netflix or Amazon “have more capabilities in our marketing for the whole goal, keeping movies more profitable and preventing movies from being sold”.

Warner Bros. tried and chose to defend the right theatrical model, Hopefully Christopher Nolan’s “Theory” People would return to theaters this summer after the first wave of the virus passed and 68 percent of American theaters were able to reopen. But theaters are still closed in the two largest markets, New York and Los Angeles, with the film grossing only $ 56 million in its entire US run. he was the one Far from Mr. Nolan’s previous theatrical achievements, Such as “Interstellar”, which grossed $ 188 million domestically, and warned other distributors that the traditional way of releasing films in 2020 was not working.

Today, the dramatic climate is more severe. Half of theaters in the United States are closed and virus cases are increasing across the country. Regal Cinema, the second largest chain in the US, has closed all its theaters citing lack of films and viewers. If cinematographer National Trade Association chief executive John Fithian does not have a federal grant program available soon, he said he expects 70 percent of them to either close permanently or go for bankruptcy early next year Will file

From VCRs to streaming, big-budget audiences have also taken viewers to movie theaters through waves of home entertainment contests. It has benefitted both theater series and studios, and is why some films the size of “Wonder Woman 1984” are going directly to post-pandemic streaming.

Moving away from theaters affects what type of films are made. In short, if less money is collected at the box office – due to a decrease in the number of movie theaters or a permanent change in consumer behavior – studios will be forced to make larger films of lower budgets. Those who believe that Hollywood has become too dependent for superhero films may actually be welcome news. Thousands of people from each of those films undoubtedly hold a different view.

But others are not sure that this shift points to the power of theatrical experience.

“Wonder Woman 1984” producer Charles Rowan said in an interview that he believed its release was not a sign of a new long-term strategy. “There is no question that they want HBO Max to succeed and what they should do,” he said of Warner Bros., “but to say that this particular thing is what is going to happen in the future, it’s There will be a jump. “

Disney chose to bypass US cinemas altogether and released a $ 200 million “Mulan” on Disney + in September, charging customers $ 30 on top of their monthly fee to watch a live-action adaptation of the animated film did. Were hurt by the sale a rage In place of a filming in China, but Disney CEO Bob Chapek told analysts earlier this month that he saw “a lot of positive results before the controversy started that reference to the Premier Access strategy We got something here. ” Disney plans to send many more big-budget films to Disney +.

For studios without their own streaming services, Calculus is a bit different. While many opted to postpone their theatrical release until 2021, others sold the films as a way to withdraw some cash. Paramount offloaded “The Trial of the Chicago 7” on Netflix and “Amazon to Coming to Amazon” for example. In a twist, Netflix is ​​currently one of the few studios still shipping products to struggling chains. From now until the end of the year, Netflix will give eight of its films a limited theatrical run before they appear on the service, including potential Oscar contenders such as “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and David Fincher. “Mank.”

Universal is another large studio still supplying movies to theaters, due to its new PVOD deals with theaters that allow it to distribute larger films such as the “Crudes” sequel More short films From its indie subsidiary, Focus Features.

That’s good news for Bobby Bobby Ford, an executive vice president at family-owned B&B theaters, Liberty, Mo., the country’s sixth-largest theater chain.

Ms. Bugby Ford stated that prior to the epidemic her company would not have accepted Warner’s plans to release “Wonder Woman 1984” in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time. However, now any opportunity to show a film that can do some real business. There will be a relief for a company that is exiting bankruptcy.

“Our filmmakers in the Midwest are very excited to be back, and they’ve been asking about ‘Wonder Woman’ for months and months,” said Ms. Bagby Ford.

The chief of WarnerMedia, Mr. Killer, said in his statement that the epidemic was the main reason for releasing “Wonder Woman 1984” in theaters and via streaming. But he also said how the move put the control of watching the film firmly in the hands of the audience.

“, Over four million fans in the US enjoyed the film ‘Wonder Woman’ on its first day in 2017.” “Is it possible that it is Christmas again between 1984 Wonder Woman 1984” between theaters and HBO Max? We are very excited to find out, doing everything in our power to provide the power of choice for fans. “

Should that work be done, it is unlikely that things will ever be the same.

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