In a surprise announcement, Warner Bros. and HBO Max confirmed that the highly anticipated, and much delayed, blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984 would be releasing on the fledgling streaming service HBO Max on Christmas Day for one month. In addition to HBO Max, the film will also be releasing in any open theaters across the country on the same day as well as a week earlier abroad.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman – the first modern comic book film to star a female lead – which earned a worldwide total of $821.8M and made actress Gal Gadot an instant A-List superstar in Hollywood. It is widely accepted that should WW1984 had been released in theaters, under normal, pre-COVID-19 circumstances, it would have broken the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office. This would explain why Warner Bros. was so reluctant to go this route and have, instead, been delaying its release for almost six months now. To say that this is a major move by Warner Bros. and AT&T is a massive understatement and speaks to their desire to see a considerable spike in new subscribers for the new streaming service.
It may not be a coincidence that this announcement comes just days after it was revealed that rival streamer – Disney+ – has soared to over 73 million subscribers just a year after its release.
AT&T’s HBO Max has yet to see that kind of success. According to a company earnings report at the end of October, the combined subscriber total between HBO and HBO Max is 38 million. Additionally, 28.7 million customers were eligible to activate HBO Max at the time of the report, but only 12.7 million have done so. This could be due to the lack of accessibility as AT&T was just able to reach a deal to bring the service to Amazon Fire TV this week and has yet to reach an agreement with Roku – something I would imagine is now a priority for both companies.
Another factor could be consumer confusion. At this moment, non-savvy customers may not know the difference between HBO, HBO Now, HBO Go, and HBO Max. While the company has begun to filter its customers towards the new service by folding HBO Go into HBO Max, there may be a bit of an identity crisis at HBO which might be having an affect on maximizing subscriptions.
Regardless, HBO Max is in need of a big boost in subscribers and DC is one of their most popular properties. The release of Wonder Woman 1984 should result in the desired outcome – to what affect, we can’t know – and make them more competitive with Disney+ which seems to be pulling away with each new episode of The Mandalorian.
It’s also worth noting that Pixar’s newest film, Soul, will also be releasing day and date on Christmas day over on Disney+ – we love a little gamesmanship in our Streaming Wars.