Wonder Woman 1984 released in Australian cinemas on December 26, but a month on it’s already been released on digital services. Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and Google Play are all offering the film to rent for $29.99 or to buy from $34.99.
While it is slightly more expensive than a movie ticket, it does raise questions about the future viability of the cinema experience.
In a press release provided to Gizmodo Australia, Warner Bros. outlined the digital release of Wonder Woman 1984 as a ‘fast-tracked’ Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) service, but did not indicate whether this would set a precedent for all future Warner Bros. releases.
According to the release, Wonder Woman 1984 has brought in over $26 million from the Australian and New Zealand Box Office — a relatively impressive result, given the current health concerns around cinemas. It’s unclear if this result prompted the fast-tracking of the Wonder Woman 1984 release.
For everyone disappointed by the lack of a simultaneous streaming release in Australia (such as in the U.S.), this comes as good news.
For cinemas, not so much.
The Australian Box Office has suffered massively over the last year as forced closures threatened the profits and viability of theatres. While Screen Australia is working tirelessly to encourage people back to the cinemas, changes overseas and health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic mean audience are looking for alternatives. Staying home has become the safest and easiest way to watch movies. While some will enjoy the freedom this allows, it also puts major pressure on cinema chains.
As reported by The Guardian, Australian cinemas are teetering on the edge of a crisis. While local films like The Dry and Penguin Bloom are helping Aussie cinemas continue trading, they rely on mainstream overseas blockbusters like WW84 to remain financially viable.
The fast-tracked release of Wonder Woman 1984 guarantees fans can experience the film as soon as and as safely as possible, in line with the current trend of simultaneous at-home HBO Max releases in the U.S. but trading convenience for the cinema experience is likely to have detrimental impacts on how we watch films.
It could be that this is the natural progression of films in the modern era, but there’s something special about watching movies that’ll be lost in this transition. If our homes become our cinemas in the same way they’ve become our workplaces, we lose the extravagance and grandeur of the cinema experience.
We lose the roasting scent of popcorn you can never achieve on a home machine. We lose the enforced no-mobile phone policy and distraction-free viewing.
But then again, we also lose the guy eating crisps loudly in the fifth row. We lose the mad scramble to find parking in the Ritz front lot. We lose the strange, sticky carpet that’s seen more wear-and-tear than we’ll ever know.
What’s clear from the release of Wonder Woman 1984 on PVOD is that how we experience films is changing. The evidence has been there for decades as the internet rose to the forefront of our lives, and again when streaming services hit the scene — but the changes have never been quite so rapid or shocking.
Gizmodo Australia has reached out to local representatives from Warner Bros. to determine whether this trend will continue with future film releases. It appears Wonder Woman 1984 may be a special case, but should we hear back about Warner Bros. future PVOD plans, we’ll update this article with any further news.
The only thing clear for now is cinema is changing, and it might be time to accept it may not ever go back to normal.