After a week of speculation about its upcoming spring and early summer release schedule, Warner Bros. is finally making waves due to the coronavirus crisis. The biggest release date shift was that Wonder Woman 1984 is moving off its June 5 release date in favor of Aug. 14, 2020. However, just as important were the announced delays of WB’s animated Scooby-Doo movie, Scoob!, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, and James Wan’s Malignant.
All three movies are now indefinitely tabled after moving off their respective launch dates of May 15, June 26, and Aug. 14. And while Wonder Woman 1984 has clearly slotted into Malignant’s original date, WB appears to be thinking (or hoping) the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic will at least somewhat subside by the beginning of July. Notably the studio has left its major July release, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, right where it is on the 17th of that month.
“When we greenlit Wonder Woman 1984, it was with every intention to be viewed on the big screen and are excited to announce that Warner Bros. Pictures will be bringing the film to theatres on Aug. 14,” said Toby Emmerich, the chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We hope the world will be in a safer and healthier place by then.”
This confirmation lines up with what our sources said last week when a rumor about Wonder Woman 1984 going to VOD went viral. Of course it also lines up with common sense that a movie with a budget north of $200 million is intended to earn at least in the ballpark of $1 billion worldwide. Even if every person who rents it on VOD pays $20 a pop, that is still an almost impossible number to reach considering that’s $20 for entire families—and everyone who pirates it off illegal download websites.
Like No Time to Die or F9 before it, attempting to move Wonder Woman past the crisis is a prudent move and reveals much of how studios currently intend to handle their blockbusters. It also matches what Phil Contrino, director of Media & Research at the National Association of Theatre Owners, told us last week.
“There’s this kind of borderline hysteria where people are coming to the conclusion that, ‘Okay, because a lot of movies are going to streaming quicker now that that means that’s going to be the future of the industry and studios and filmmakers are just going to abandon movie theaters,’” Contrino said. “And that’s just so far from what the reality of the situation is. Studios across the board are committed to theatrical, and filmmakers are committed to theatrical.”
Still, we are intrigued by the fact the other three movies are in a holding pattern without new release dates. Obviously, WB is going to continue monitoring how the coronavirus outbreak unfolds, and whether we really “flatten the curve” in North America by July or August (a more reasonable timetable than rumbles of a new Easter Sunday deadline for the virus). With that said, we can’t help but notice that all three of WB’s other delays bear some faint similarity to movies that are going to VOD right now.
Scoob! is an animated movie based on a character rife with Gen-X and baby boomer nostalgia, not unlike the Trolls dolls. And Universal Pictures is putting the next animated adaptation of those toys, Trolls: World Tour, on VOD on April 10. Meanwhile Malignant is the newest original horror movie from James Wan, who has a knack for launching franchises in the genre like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring. And the first two of those he co-created at the screenplay level with Leigh Whannell, whose latest writing-directing effort, The Invisible Man, was among the first movies to historically break the theatrical window in favor of VOD.
While no musicals like Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Miranda’s In the Heights have made the jump to VOD yet, the similarly adult-targeted romantic comedy, Emma., certainly did alongside The Invisible Man and The Hunt. So it is fair to wonder whether WB is taking a wait and see approach to how the VOD market treats all these films, particularly Trolls which will make its debut on VOD. Could any or all of these movies end up on VOD? It’s something we’ve certainly speculated is possible. Time (and the length of current crisis) will of course bear it out, but it’s more likely than Wonder Woman ever was….