Movie going will never be the same again and with Wonder Woman 84, Warner Bros are leading the charge into our new reality with HBO Max
Don’t get me wrong, If I had to choose, Cinema will always be my first choice for watching new films, even the bad ones. The screen, the atmosphere, the sound, the immersion – the experience is second to none. But the sad reality is, things will never be the same again. The Covid pandemic has changed the world beyond repair and while many still struggle to accept this, the harsh reality is starting to set in.
Warner’s latest announcement has sent shockwaves throughout the industry, yet it wasn’t really that much of a surprise. The uncertainty behind the opening of cinemas under the various tier systems in the UK and closures around the world make it almost impossible for the larger studios to not only plan their future slates, but also to recover costs and pay debts owed on investments already made. A business without a plan is doomed to fail so Warner Bros decision was not made from greed or profiteering but out of survival and necessity
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Despite this, some in the industry have interpreted this as some sort of attack on the establishment, a threat to the status quo but this is a reaction to circumstance rather than by design. Now, the truth is, much like cassettes, vinyl and CD’s eventually became streaming services, this change would have eventually come. The Pandemic has simply accelerated the process massively. Human beings are creatures of comfort and convenience through technology. Given the choice, many of us will always opt to have entertainment delivered straight to our homes rather than travelling (some of us are still old enough to remember Blockbuster video and late return fees!).
Even if a percentage of the population do take the vaccine at some point in 2021, there are still those who have always been opposed to vaccines so are unlikely take part in vaccination, in fact, the anti-vax movement seems to have grown massively, with suspicion over the speed with which it’s been developed.
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As I write this, there are anti vaccine protests going on in London. And even further, there are those who believe Covid is a government created hoax to aid population control. So, at best, we would be left with very fragmented vaccination cover across society. Vaccines effectiveness is directly related to the highest number of people in society being vaccinated. So, amongst those that are covered, will they have the confidence to return to cinemas, trusting other people to be as responsible as them? With all the other Studios moving their tentpole releases to 2021 and leaving the cinemas barren, Warner seemed to be the only ones who have attempted to support the cinema chains and keep them afloat, first with the release of Tenet this summer and now with Wonder Woman this Christmas
Warner Bros are providing people with the choice to see all their releases in an environment they consider safe and comfortable. If you have the opportunity to go to an open cinema and feel it is safe, then you will feel a lot happier being there. If you don’t have that option, you can then see the same film on the same day on your own screen. With this action, Warner Bros have not only provided choice to the public in the face of this pandemic, but they have also taken control of their business going forward. They can now plan their own release slate of films and guarantee release dates as its not reliant on Cinemas being open.
This is not simply an act of altruism on their part. While subscriptions to their new HBO Max streaming service have trailed behind the bigger players, there has been a massive spike in subscribers and interest since the announcement of Wonder Woman 84. But that’s great for the United States, but what about the UK and the rest of the world where HBO Max isn’t yet available?
Andy Forsell, the head of HBO Max Global has stated he expects HBO Max to be across Europe and Latin America by the end of 2021. Until then, they will continue to use Cinemas wherever possible. When unavailable, this will revert to either VOD (Video on demand) or they may utilise their existing deal with Sky, with whom they currently have a deal in place for HBO shows.
Taking all this into account, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Disney may also adopt this co Cinema/Streaming strategy. With their developer conference coming on the 10th of December, there just may well be an announcement of some sort. The uncertainty which Covid has provided must be unsettling for an organisation like Disney who notoriously like to fully control their plans and content. Consider the MCU, the most ambitious movie project in history with over 20 interconnecting films. It was due to start its phase four in 2020 but it’s knocked off schedule and delayed with the continuous push backs.
They also planned to connect their slate of TV shows across Disney Plus with the films, so the effects on their business are far reaching. It’s my belief they would love the opportunity to plan and decide their releases and get their schedule back on track once again.
Change can be frightening but also exciting as it forces us to explore new and innovative ways of doing things we have always done. Only time will tell whether this will be successful but for now, the future of movies seems to be even more about our choice, comfort and surely, that can’t be a terrible thing?
Let me know what you think below