Updated: Nov 24
As many of you may already know, I am a bit of a Wonder Woman fanatic.
I discovered the comic book in grade school; fell in love with Lynda Carter's interpretation during junior high; and continued to read her adventures, collect her action figures, and aspire to the characteristics the character represents -- honesty, bravery, and a willingness to fight for justice and the underdog -- ever since.
I'm such a die-hard fan, that as I impatiently waited for the June 2017 release of Wonder Woman -- a film decades in the making -- I remember thinking, "After waiting this long, Donald Trump better not kill us all before I see this movie!"
Thankfully, he didn't. And I did. And I absolutely loved it.
So the irony isn't lost on me this go 'round, as COVID-19 (and Trump's disinterest in science) has bumped the release date of the sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, repeatedly -- from June 2020, to October, then to Christmas Day.
Once again, I'm thinking, "Trump better not kill me before I see this movie!" But this time, its not quite as funny. (Because 254,000 have already perished as I write this.)
But with cinemas in Los Angeles (as well as New York, San Francisco and elsewhere) closed, many WW fans (myself included) were screaming at Warner Bros.:
"Why won't you just release it POD, or on HBOmax, a la Disney+'s release for Mulan?"
Our screams fell on deaf ears. So it seemed.
Now, with alarmingly skyrocketing numbers of COVID cases and deaths not only coast to coast, but worldwide as well, WB has finally faced the music. This past week, they announced WW84 will still open in theatres (well, in those that are open) on Christmas Day, but it will also stream on HBOmax beginning Dec. 25 as well.
Its wonderful news for Wonder Woman fans like me. An added bonus? After accepting that I would not be spending Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's doing anything exciting, and despite having no real money to spend on gifts, I at least now look forward to Christmas morning almost like a giddy child.
But as quick as WW fans were to celebrate, almost immediately came a deluge of voices, proclaiming that WW84's move to streaming would be the last nail in the coffin of the near-dead cinema industry.
And those critics have cause to be concerned. The future doesn't look bright for movie houses.
Warner Bros. hoped Christopher Nolan's new film Tenet would seduce audiences back into the theatres that were open. But crowds understandably stayed away in droves.
So other distributors started moving release dates for their films -- highly anticipated films like Black Widow, Dune, Candyman, No Time to Die, West Side Story -- to 2021.
But not Warner Bros.! Just like in the comics, WB was determined that Wonder Woman was to come flying in for a last-minute rescue in 2020, and give theatre-owners the hope of at least a little cash in their coffers for Christmas.
But now that Warner Bros. will stream the film beginning on Christmas, it's reasonable to assume most viewers will opt to stay home and watch it with their families -- greatly diminishing the already miniscule crowds that could and would see it in a cinema.
It's good news for limiting the spread of the virus. But the worst possible news for cinemas.
The Regal Cinemas chain has already thrown in the towel, closing all domestic U.S. locations. AMC Theatres, the largest U.S. chain with over 600 locations, said if it doesn't reach 75% of previous capacity very soon, the chain will shutter for good unless it receives a substantial government bail-out.
And those are large chains, with healthy cash reserves (now depleted). The forecast is even more bleak for smaller chains and the one or two small-town "mom-and-pop" theatres. Many of those are already long gone.
It's similar to the dilemma Hollywood faced in the 1950s, as television kept more and more people at home in front of their sets, and out of movie theatres.
Back then, the studios predicted the complete collapse of the movie theatre.
But it didn't happen then. And I personally don't think it will happen now.
Yes, many theatre chains will close. It may be a long time before we're all comfortable with sitting in crowds of strangers again.
Cinema may hibernate for a while. But it will return.
Some movies demand a big screen. Other films deserve to be seen with an audience, And film festivals need to move back from the computer screen and drive-in to the theatres eventually.
Once the vaccine is widely distributed, folks will slowly come back inside the movie houses.
At least I hope so! After all, I still hope to watch Wonder Woman 3 in a packed theatre filled with other WW fans!
Maybe by the time that happens, life will be somewhat back to normal.