It’s down to Gal Gadot and her hot pants to test waters over whether audiences still have the appetite for the movie theatre…
The weight of the whole film industry will be resting on one wonderful woman this weekend. ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ (2020) finally launched in UK cinemas last Wednesday having been delayed 5 times and twice because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately I won’t be seeing it any time soon. Not until at least next week when I can find a drive-in that’s showing it as cinemas in Tier 3 Nottingham are still closed. So far the movie’s taken $4.6 million against its $200 million budget. It needs to make at least $400 million (twice what it cost) to break even.
All eyes will be on this movie’s Box Office figures to see if people still have the appetite to attend the movie theatre - an art which is currently at heavy risk from the rise of streaming services.
The movie world last held its breath for a big blockbuster tentpole back in August when Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ (2020) launched in cinemas worldwide. That was the first big blockbuster to open post-lockdown and was expected to draw crowds back to the seats of a cinema near you since they reopened.
Unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case. ‘Tenet’ made a very respectable $361.4 million worldwide, but failed to top the $400 million mark it needed to make up for its mammoth $200 million budget. In order for a movie of that budget to be declared a success, it needs to make twice what it cost to make.
‘Tenet’s Box Office underperformance was responsible for the majority of studios postponing their tentpoles til’ next year. Disney’s ‘Black Widow’, which was originally scheduled for October, will now come out in May next year. Paramount’s ‘A Quiet Place: Part II’ is now scheduled for release in April 2021 - over a year since it was originally going to come out.
The biggest shocker and what was responsible for the closure of Cineworld (the UK’s biggest cinema chain) was Universal’s decision to delay the release of the latest James Bond film ‘No Time to Die’ from November to April. Cineworld closed 673 of its doors in both the UK and US in October; having been starved for months of big-budget releases to draw in the crowds.
The closure of Cineworld highlighted the very real danger that cinemas might just not survive this pandemic. Streaming services such as Curzon Home Cinema, Netflix and Apple TV+ are on the rise and have been hugely popular during this pandemic (6.7 million households signed up to 2 services or more in September). So much so that studios such as Disney resigned and dumped two of their biggest releases - ‘Mulan’ and ‘Soul’ (out on December 25th) - on their own streaming service Disney Plus.
The rise of streaming is very worrying for the big cinema chains. It’s certainly safer and less expensive to watch a new movie in the comfort of your own home than it is to spend over £30 for the family at the pictures. Your home also doesn’t smell of popcorn and it’s much easier to take a bathroom break by hitting the pause button on your remote than it is to walk out of the cinema mid-way through a film.
That being said, independent cinemas seem to be thriving at the moment. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve tried to book tickets at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema only to find shows are sold out.
Perhaps it’s the whole tentpole culture of one over $100 million release holding up a cinema for a month that needs to change. Independent cinemas don’t rely on American blockbusters for their income and cinemas in other parts of the world are now open meaning new releases from other countries can be shown.
Whatever the case, it will be down to Gal Gadot and her hot pants to test waters this Christmas over whether audiences are still up for going to the cinema (in places they are open, of course).
Frankly ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ has a much better chance of drawing back the crowds than ‘Tenet’. ‘Tenet’ may have had a box office draw in Christopher Nolan behind the camera, but it was a $200 million original movie with no bankable stars and a highly complex plot that many branded “inaccessible”.
‘Wonder Woman 1984’, on the other hand, is the latest adaptation of one of DC Comics’ most popular superheroes (after Batman and Superman) and it’s the sequel to the 21st highest-grossing superhero movie of all time (‘Wonder Woman’ (2017) made $822.2 million back in 2017).
The fact that the film’s predecessor was the first and is currently the highest-grossing female-led superhero movie of all time is a cause for celebration. The feminist crowds will certainly be banking all their money on this sequel being a success and surely the political correctness of it all will ensure extra seats.
Then again, I worry that Warner Bros. decision to release the film simultaneously onto HBO Max and other digital platforms (in territories that don’t have HBO Max) is a dangerous one. With the pandemic showing no sign of slowing down and the infection rate continuously rising, will people just think “it’s safer to stay and watch the movie at home”? Either way, this new ‘Wonder Woman’ is going to have to make hell of a lot of money to break even. I just hope Gal Gadot is up to it…
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
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