While “Wonder Woman 1984” has not earned the $100 million-plus opening Warner Bros. had anticipated, the DC film has become the first movie during the COVID-19 pandemic to gross over $10 million in a three-day opening weekend, taking in $16.7 million domestically and $36 million worldwide on Christmas weekend.
This came despite the fact that “WW84” opened in fewer theaters than Warner Bros.’ last major release, “Tenet,” which opened on over 2,600 screens back in September. Thanks to closures forced by nationwide COVID-19 surges, this blockbuster opened on 2,151 screens in North America. Private screenings, which have become a backup plan for revenue-starved theaters, became a major driver of ticket sales for the film with over 10,000 private parties booked by groups looking to see the film on the big screen in a safe environment. So far, the film has grossed $85 million, having opened in China and other overseas territories last weekend.
Meanwhile, on HBO Max, where the film was also released for home viewing on Christmas Day, Warner Bros. says that nearly half of the streaming service’s subscribers watched “WW84” when it was released on Friday. HBO Max also saw the total viewing hours on Friday more than triple in comparison to a typical day in the previous month. Combined, the numbers show the undying popularity of both Wonder Woman and superhero movies as a whole, with “Wonder Woman 1984” being the first major title in the genre in over a year. On Sunday, Warner confirmed that a third installment has been greenlit.
“Wonder Woman 1984” will be the first of 18 Warner Bros. films through 2021 that will be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. While Warner Bros. says the move is in response to the unpredictability of the pandemic and the need to lock in release dates for next year’s films, the move has led to turmoil among studios and talent as they try to grapple with the potential financial changes that a day-and-date model can bring to films expected to have theatrical exclusivity. Several directors of Warner films have also spoken out against the move, including “WW84” director Patty Jenkins, though she will return with lead star Gal Gadot for the third “Wonder Woman” film.
Despite this, “WW84” has dominated the pop culture conversation over the Christmas weekend, trending for multiple days on several social media platforms along with stars Gadot, Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig. Reception to the film among critics and fans has run the gamut, with some calling it a worthy successor to the 2017 original while others called it a disappointing follow-up. After initially earning a “Certified Fresh” rating from early reviews, “WW84” has seen its Rotten Tomatoes critics score fall to 65% with an audience score of 73%. By comparison, the first “Wonder Woman” had a critics score of 93% and an audience score of 84%.
The rest of the box office has seen the same kind of poor numbers that have plagued the industry for the past nine months. Universal Pictures, which has provided a significant amount of the films screened in theaters this quarter, released Paul Greengrass’ “News of the World” in 1,900 theaters, earning a $2.4 million opening.
The Oscar hopeful film stars Tom Hanks as a Civil War veteran tasked with returning a young girl taken by the Kiowa tribe to her aunt and uncle. Reception has been strong with an 85% critics score and 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Though demographic numbers have been skewed by the pandemic, it’s notable that 54% of the film’s opening weekend audience was over the age of 45, showing that there is some degree of interest among older moviegoers to return to theaters despite the greater risk of COVID-19 to that age group.
In third is another Universal release, “The Croods: A New Age,” which passed $30 million in its fifth weekend and is approaching $100 million worldwide after adding $1.73 million domestically and opening to $3 million in Russia. The film’s global box office total stands at $98.25 million. Focus Features’ acclaimed revenge thriller “Promising Young Woman” opened to just $680,000 from 1,310 theaters, though both it and “News of the World” are hoping to build awards buzz next month when they release on premium video on-demand as part of Universal’s early home release deal with AMC and Cinemark.
Finally, Disney has released the acclaimed Pixar movie “Soul” on Disney+, though it is still being released theatrically in 10 countries where the streaming service isn’t available. This includes China, where the film opened to $5.5 million, with overall weekend grosses totaling $7.6 million.