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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ And ‘Little Things’ VOD Strength Suggests Life After HBO Max

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That the “in theaters and on HBO Max” films are still performing well on VOD and EST suggests less cannibalism than feared for post-theatrical revenue streams.

Fandango has announced that their top movies last weekend, in terms of total revenue, was Denzel Washington’s The Little Things and Wonder Woman 1984. Meanwhile, WW84 and The Little Things are currently tops over at YouTube as Wonder Woman 1984 is tops at Vudu and in second place (behind Promising Young Woman) on iTunes. Also of note, Minari continues to show remarkable strength over at Amazon, again placing in the top spot.

However, I would argue that the strong showings of Promising Young Woman and Minari, along with the likes of The Croods: A New Age, are partially examples of folks who might have seen them in theaters choosing the rent or buy the films online either due to convenience or necessity. The two HBO Max flicks performing well paints a different story.

It is arguably no less “easy” to pay $15 a month to subscribe to HBO Max and get access (for the first 30 days of domestic theatrical release) to all of Warner Bros.’ 2021 theatrical offerings as it is to “wait” for post-theatrical and watch it at home on a given VOD platform. That The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run remains in high demand (relatively speaking) on the various VOD charts (third on Fandango and Vudu, seventh on iTunes and Google, etc.) while also being available “for free” for Paramount+ subscribers suggests two things.

First, it’s possible that there is a real information disconnect in terms of what films are available in what distribution outlets at any given time. Second, as we note that SpongeBob 3 is currently Paramount+’s top-trending movie, as it has been since its initial March 5 release, it remains possible that streaming availability may not totally suppress the VOD revenue chain.

That Wonder Woman 1984 was released in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day to much fanfare and yet still remains a seemingly viable (sans any hard numbers) offering in the first stop of its conventional post-theatrical journey, is potentially encouraging. Likewise with The Little Things, which earned $28 million worldwide while being available on HBO Max from late January to late February and (around 30 days after that) still remains a hot-ticket VOD item.

Again, there’s a difference between folks renting Monster Hunter (still tops at Google) because they couldn’t see it in theaters and folks paying ala-carte for SpongeBob 3 despite the film being concurrently available on a $10-a-month streaming platform.

Sure, I’d wager studios are less concerned about streaming eating into VOD as they are about streaming and VOD eating into theatrical revenue (especially for big-budget movies). After all, while an under-$10 million movie like Promising Young Woman can be profitable with $10 million in global box office and whatever it has earned on EST and VOD (it’s Comcast’s leggiest PVOD title yet), the same can’t be said of major movies like Wonder Woman. Tom & Jerry performing no worse theatrically than in pre-Covid times and Avatar racing past $50 million in China are encouraging but not decisive signs of hope.

In a normal circumstance, I’d be arguing that “rank doesn’t matter,” since I’ve always argued that the raw grosses (in comparison to expectations, budget and related responsibilities) mattered far more than opening in first place or sticking around in the top five for longer than expected. But in this new streaming/VOD-specific era, we may have to rely on pure ranking for a while. And yes, much of this, in terms of rankings, is more about a narrative as opposed to “cost versus revenue” analysis.

As such, for now, Warner Bros.’ theatrical releases topping the box office, topping HBO Max and then topping the VOD charts on their initial arrival will be a good look for as long as they can maintain it. And that they can do so alongside movies that were either straight-to-VOD titles (SAS: Red Notice) or “from theatrical to VOD” offerings (like News of the World or Minari) differentiates the narrative… Well, it may not mean anything to the bottom line, but it makes for good press.

Otherwise, Raya and the Last Dragon is in sixth place on Disney+ behind The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, The Mickey Mouse Club, The Simpsons and Moana. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is currently tops over at HBO Max. The top movie over at Netflix is currently Deadly Illusions, a Kristen Davis/Dermot Mulroney/Greer Grammar erotic thriller that seems like it would have been a CBS Sunday Night Movie back in the early 1990’s before being “rediscovered” on the Lifetime network.

That’s not a criticism, but it’s another example of how Netflix has appropriated the very kinds of movies that can no longer survive in theaters or on regular television in the streaming era. Likewise, I liked Yes Day (which was tops for the entire week prior) better when it was Disney’s Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good Very Bad Day.

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