'Wonder Woman 1984': Hollywood's last stand for 2020

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, December 28, 2020
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A still from "Wonder Woman 1984." [Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.]

Warner Bros. superhero movie "Wonder Woman 1984," the final Hollywood blockbuster to be released in 2020, took the top spot at the North American box office this week, taking an estimated $16.7 million from 2,151 locations amid the still-raging pandemic, according to analytics firm Comscore.

The movie marks the biggest opening weekend of any release in North America since the pandemic began in March. Comscore noted that only 35% of all North American theaters are currently open amid the latest surge in the coronavirus.

Providing hope for movie theaters devastated by the pandemic, the highly anticipated $200 million production was released simultaneously in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming platform on Christmas Day.

The movie is a sequel to the 2017 hit "Wonder Woman," which took $822 million worldwide, including $90.5 million in China. With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, "Wonder Woman 1984" follows Diana Prince as she battles two formidable foes during the Cold War era.

The movie opened in theaters internationally a week earlier than in the United States. Outside North America, the movie has so far taken an estimated $68.3 million from 40 overseas markets, including $24.1 million on the Chinese mainland, bringing its total worldwide earnings to $85 million.

An IMAX poster for "Wonder Woman 1984." [Photo courtesy of IMAX China]

"We made sure the bar is very, very high. We really wanted to make sure we are delivering you a bigger, better, more exciting movie," Gadot told Chinese audiences via video-link at the online midnight premiere on Dec. 18. 

"We wanted to see one woman at the height of her power at the top of her game," added the film's director Patty Jenkins via video-link. "So we wanted to jump forward … to seeing mankind at excessive success, which is what it was in America in the 1980s, and 1984 being the biggest year of all."

The release of "Wonder Woman 1984" has been delayed several times, but unlike many major Hollywood productions which have been moved to 2021, producers opted to release the movie in 2020, making it Hollywood's final hope for the year.

Producer Charles Roven explained to Chinese audiences at the premiere: "When COVID-19 hit, we had to push the movie a few times. But then when we finally landed on the holiday season, it just felt so right for the fans of the movie. It just felt the timing was perfect to also give a big gift to the fans."

The midnight online premiere of "Wonder Woman 1984" was held on Dec. 18, 2020 in China, linking movie theaters in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu, where the film's cast and crew spoke with Chinese audiences. [Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.]

Considering the plot and atmosphere of the romantic action film, it was quite fitting for a Christmas release. However, 10 days since its opening in China, the movie's box office results have been lackluster. Many cinemagoers in China have complained about a scarcity of big set piece action scenes, and especially a lack of a big finale where larger fighting scenes could have helped attract bigger audiences.

While the box office results cannot be compared with the first installment due to the pandemic and lower critics ratings, Warner Bros. still announced Monday that "Wonder Woman 3" is being fast-tracked. The third installment will again be written and directed by Patty Jenkins, and feature Gal Gadot.

"We are excited to be able to continue her story with our real life Wonder Women — Gal and Patty — who will return to conclude the long-planned theatrical trilogy," said Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group.

WarnerMedia reported that the DC sequel was viewed by nearly half of retail subscribers on HBO Max on the day of its release, along with millions of wholesale subscribers who have access via cable, wireless, or other partner services.

The simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max release of "Wonder Woman 1984" was originally expected to be a one-off because of the pandemic. However, WarnerMedia controversially announced that they are putting their entire 2021 theatrical slate day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max, as they anticipate a challenging year ahead. 

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