A few weeks before Warner Bros. surprised the world by announcing they'd be streaming their entire 2021 slate of films on HBO Max the same day they release them in theaters, they'd already kicked off this new strategy by announcing that the long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984 would be making its debut on the platform on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, as well as in whichever theaters are still open for business.
By then it had already been a long journey for the highly-anticipated movie, having been pushed back a couple of times since it's initially-scheduled theatrical release earlier this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But with its now-set release date just a few weeks away, director Patty Jenkins has a request for fans, as she stated during a recent interview with Jess Cagle on SiriusXM, where she was joined by stars Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, and Pedro Pascal.
"I'm so excited that people are going to see our film," said the director, who also helmed the 2017 Wonder Woman film that went on to set various records. "But I do beg them [to] pick the biggest screen they can find, please!"
Much like many other filmmakers this year, seeing WW 1984 being released onto streaming was not in Jenkins plans, but it's something she's since come around to. "If you had told me a year ago that we would ever go straight to streaming in any way, shape or form, I would have flipped out," stated Jenkins during the interview. "I'm not for that plan in general. I'm very pro theatrical release and I will be that again, as soon as this is over."
But, as she noted during the interview, there was no good option given this crazy year, as it was this, or risk being released in conjunction with several other big-name movies whenever it's deemed safe to do so again. Only one big tentpole flick has been released this summer, with Tenet making its way into cinemas in late August when theaters were first starting to open up again. However, with several locations either remaining closed, or operating at a reduced capacity due to social distancing rules, the movie's box office haul was a lot less than it would have had it been released in a regular year, on the date originally set for it.
Jenkins has since embraced the idea, and is excited for fans to finally see the film she and the cast spent months shooting.
"I literally gasped a little bit when the pitch for this idea was said, because I was like, 'Oh, the idea of it going into people's homes on Christmas Day'... Something about it felt so right," said Jenkins, stressing her relationship with the audience as a filmmaker. "That's actually pretty incredible, to get to share [the film]... I'm so grateful. I make films because of communion with audiences."
She expounded on this sentiment during an interview with CNN, in which she stated that she is still in agreement with The Dark Knight (and Tenet) director Christopher Nolan regarding what the move to streaming might mean for the industry going forward — but noted a global pandemic obviously changes things.
"I agree with Chris. I don't think it's great for the future of filmmaking when Covid has passed," said the Monster director. "However, our film was different. It was presented in a very different way, which is that we are at the height of the pandemic right now and people are really suffering and struggling and the choices are to sit on our film and wait or to release it."
She went on to add, "In this case, at this moment in time only, I really was excited about this idea... The number one reason I'm a filmmaker is to try to share experiences with mankind and have the communal moment of sharing something. Yes, I loved it when it happens in theaters, but this year I'm so touched and moved that it's going to happen in people's homes when they can't go places and still happen in theaters where they can. There's something sort of wonderful about just saying now is the time to release the movie, regardless of all of those other things. I'm with Chris, I'm going to go right back to being a partner to the theatrical business. That's what I make films for."
She also voiced similar feelings during a conversation with The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin for Variety's upcoming Virtual FYC Fest, as the duo discussed the future of the theatrical experience and how releasing big blockbusters directly onto streaming platforms might affect that.
While Jenkins is relieved that fans will be able to watch WW 1984 as safely as possible, she doesn't think this means the end for cinemas in general as it's been something people have been saying since television first became popular. And with so many companies pivoting to prioritize streaming in their plans going forward, Jenkins believes the industry is missing out on some prime economic opportunities.
"When every single studio in town starts chasing the exact same thing, you're like, Why doesn't someone differentiate themselves?" Jenkins asked as part of the conversation with Sorkin. "In this case, I think what's going to happen is… some studio is going to be smart enough to be an outlier, and all the great filmmakers in town are going to go there, and the theaters are going to favor their movies. Because right now, if there are studios that announce that [releasing day-and-date on streaming] is what they're going to start doing, every filmmaker's going to head to the studio that promises they're not going to."
She went on to add, "It's not going to be easy," before citing United Artists, a company founded in 1919 by director D.W. Griffith and actors Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford in order to favor artists' interests over that of the studio system. "I think there's a sentiment right now that change is coming and there's nothing you can do about it, and I think that doesn't take into consideration the artists who can very much 'United Artists' it up and make a big change."
Wonder Woman lands on HBO Max and theaters where possible on Dec. 25.