Where can I watch 'Wonder Woman 1984'? Key questions about Warner Bros moving new releases to HBO Max answered

The studio has caused uproar by bypassing theatrical releases of its entire 2021 slate of films. Here’s why …

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a scene from "Wonder Woman 1984." Following the less-than-stellar theatrical debut of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” Warner Bros. is delaying its next big release, “Wonder Woman 1984,” to Christmas. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros Pictures via AP)
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The news that Warner Bros will release its entire 2021 slate of films on streamer HBO Max, which is also owned by the Hollywood studio, rather than solely in US cinemas has created a furore in the entertainment industry.

"Some of our industry's biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service," Batman Begins and Tenet director Christopher Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter this week.

But what does this mean for cinema-goers next year, and why are filmmakers getting so up in arms about the straight to streamer model? Let us explain …

What films will be available on HBO Max?

Warner Bros has approved a slate of 17 films which will bypass the standard 90-day waiting period between appearing at the cinema before being made available on other platforms.

The Suicide Squad, Godzilla vs Kong, Dune, The Matrix 4, Lin Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, Clint Eastwood's Cry Macho, Space Jam: A New Legacy and the hugely anticipated Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, are just some of the titles being sent straight to streaming.

The 2021 slate also includes Denzel Washington's The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, a Tom and Jerry remake, a Mortal Kombat adaptation, the Will Smith-starring King Richard, Angelina Jolie's Those Who Wish Me Dead, James Wan's MalignantThe Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and Reminiscence starring Hugh Jackman.

Wonder Woman 1984 will also be released on HBO Max on Friday, December 25, the same day it's in cinemas, it was also announced last month.

Why is Warner Bros putting films on HBO Max?

It’s likely Warner Bros saw this as a way to win a lot of new subscribers on its streaming platform. The studio would also avoid the potential of severe losses at the box office should cinemas remain closed or movie-goers continue to stay away in 2021.

"Many in Hollywood think WarnerMedia opted for this drastic move to play to streaming-infatuated Wall Street and redo the botched launch of HBO Max, which has netted a dismal 8.6 million 'activated' subscribers so far," notes The Hollywood Reporter. For comparison, Netflix has 195 million subscribers globally.

Will 'Wonder Woman 1984' be at cinemas?

Yes. All films will be simultaneously released on HBO Max and at cinemas, Warner Bros said. The titles will appear on HBO Max for one month before being removed from the platform, while at cinemas, "films will cycle through the usual release 'windows', leaving theatres when interest has run out", the New York Times reports.

After that, they will follow the familiar process of being made available on iTunes and DVD, before returning to HBO Max.

Warner Bros said it will still release its films in cinemas in countries which don’t have access to HBO Max, such as the UAE.

Why are theatre owners angry with Warner Bros?

Traditionally, films are released at the cinema first. A window of around 90 days is then observed before the film is made available on other platforms. Also, in order for a film to be considered for an Academy Award nomination, it must have had a theatrical release, which is why Netflix and other streamers began releasing their pictures for limited runs to qualify.

This year, however, films that debut on a streaming service without a theatrical run are also eligible for Oscars, in response to how the pandemic has impacted the film industry.

Cinemas fear they will collect reduced or no revenue from these releases. They are also afraid customers won't return to cinemas if they get used to watching new films from the comfort of their sofas.

Why are Hollywood stars upset about the move?

In addition to their salaries for starring in a film, the agents for top Hollywood stars also negotiate “points” for their A-list clients, which is a share of the profits (“the back end”). They receive this once the film goes into profit.

If a film isn’t released globally at the cinema, it is unlikely to break even, let alone move into the black. Thus, actors and actresses don’t get their share of the profits.

Why are talent agencies against this move by Warner Bros?

The big talent agencies in Hollywood include CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and WME (William Morris Endeavour). Between them, they represent most of the top-tier literary, acting, producing and directing talent. Sources told The New York Times that the agencies were not kept in the loop about the move to streaming.

"To prevent the news of the 17-movie shift from leaking (and to make the move speedily rather than get mired in the expected blowback), WarnerMedia kept the major agencies and talent management companies in the dark until roughly 90 minutes before issuing a news release," the NYT reported. "The surprise move left agencies on a war footing."

Will the Covid-19 vaccine bring audiences back to the theatre?

Despite industry talk from other major studios that the vaccine will be a magic solution for an industry that was already struggling even before the pandemic, Warner Bros aren’t of the opinion that audiences will flock to US cinemas once they reopen.

"Like a lot of businesses, theatres are in a tough spot right now," Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia's chief executive, told The New York Times. "We are all in the middle of a pandemic, and we are all trying to figure our way through it. One of the things we can do to be helpful to them is to provide them with a steady stream of big-budget, well-told stories."



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