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AT&T: Wonder Woman 1984 'Exceeded All Key Metrics' in Debut

AT&T: Wonder Woman 1984 'Exceeded All Key Metrics' in Debut

WarnerMedia’s first dual HBO Max and box office film was received incredibly well according to parent company AT&T, with over $85M worldwide.

WarnerMedia’s first dual HBO Max and box office film was received incredibly well according to parent company AT&T, with over $85M worldwide.

Credit | WarnerMedia

Wonder Woman 1984, in the last month of the wonderful year we know as 2020, hit the top of the domestic box office, marking the biggest opening in the age of COVID. With an estimated $16.7 million in North America during its debut, WW1984, a $200 million action film, posted the highest box-office return of any film since the beginning of the pandemic.

The film, currently quite divisive critically, is the sequel to director Patty Jenkins’ $822 million box office grossing Wonder Woman (2017), bringing in $85 million worldwide since its December 16th international release. Releasing across 2,150 theaters throughout the US and Canada on the 25th, as well as to HBO Max, WW1984 became the biggest release of the year, at least through the pandemic part of the year.

Debuting on HBO Max as well as in theaters, was a massive financial risk for WarnerMedia, but it seems to have worked out well for them, at least so far. Luckily for the company, WW1984 showed that a decently sized domestic audience will still show up at a movie theater to watch a massive title, even if it happens to be available for free on streaming services as well.

Credit | Android Authority

Over 60% of the US’ theaters are currently closed or shut down, so this number is not only surprising for its higher grossing than other films, nor for its direct to video and theater approach, but especially for the 60% of theaters closed.

According to estimates from WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros. division, the 2020 sequel’s box office 3-day domestic completely eclipsed other big budget movies: $16.7M for WW84 vs. $9.7M for The Croods: A New Age vs. $9.3M for Tenet. As a comparison point, the Croods 2 has a 76% on RT, Tenet has a 70%, and WW84 has a 65%, which is steadily dropping.

WarnerMedia themselves, in this case the direct operators of streaming platform HBO Max, reported that “nearly half” of all HBO retail subscribers watched the film on its release during Christmas Day. Numbers for HBO Max, specifically total viewing hours, more than tripled compared to an average day, the month before.

That key metric is especially important, as there’s a chance that there could’ve been 20 million people that watched the film, but for only a minute or two, which would’ve resulted in a low watch time. With confirmed higher watch time hours, it’s much more likely that this film succeeded.

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While 2017’s Wonder Woman took in a total of $103 million during its domestic debut, this year’s $16.7 million debut for WW84 is still quite respectable, especially considering current circumstances across the world. Warner Bros execs might be super excited about this total domestically, even though it’s a lot lower than 3 years ago, whereas producers might be less happy.

As explained by Statural here, Warner’s sudden decision to move all films to cinema and streaming was incredibly controversial. Directors and actors were convinced that since the films went to streaming too, theaters would make no money, which in return would make the cast zero money too. Luckily for them and Warner so far, it seems as though that won’t happen, at least not to the degree of self-cannibalism that cast thought it would.

According to Andy Forssell, Exec Vice President and General Manager of WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer,

“Wonder Woman 1984 broke records and exceeded our expectations across all of our key viewing and subscriber metrics in its first 24 hours on the service, and the interest and momentum we’re seeing indicates this will likely continue well beyond the weekend; During these very difficult times, it was nice to give families the option of enjoying this uplifting film at home, where theater viewing wasn’t an option.”

This points to more proof that Warner has enough information to at least believe that the film performed well enough to logistically make enough sense for the company to continue to release films on a split basis.

Credit | Global Sport Matters

Even with these positives however, it’s still going to be incredibly difficult for WarnerMedia to make up the lost money from these films, as in order to make money, the company has to significantly increase their HBO Max subscriber base. According to AT&T’s 3rd quarter report, the company has 38 million subscribers between HBO (pay-cable version) and HBO Max.

AT&T CEO John Stankey later said that HBO Max had added 4 million customers to reach 12.6 million subscribers. While a number of those are no-doubt from new subscribers, a larger number is likely from transferring HBO subscriptions to the new platform.

The company doesn’t make any more money from transferred accounts, since HBO and HBO Max are both $15/month, so AT&T will have to actively gain subscribers, with new additions, in order to actually make a profit on releasing these massive $100-$200 million films on streaming. This is even more noticeable when you see that all HBO Max subscribers are from the US, as the service hasn’t even been released internationally yet.

In order for HBO Max to make a profit from WW84, they’d have to add on 13 million subscribers at $15/month in December to return $200 million, or 1 million subscribers every month a new film releases, keeping the subs for an entire year to actively profit from these films. Luckily, the 1 million per month shouldn’t be difficult at all, especially if AT&T actively and correctly markets HBO Max to a wider audience.

While this won’t be easy for the company, it’s incredibly possible for the company to make back the money from WW84, and even make back money from future films released to the platform.