Filmmaker Joe Carnahan says streaming new-release movies — an industry adaptation to the coronavirus pandemic — is here to stay, postulating that WarnerMedia “made a lot of money” with its high-profile premiere of Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max.
In an interview with SlashFilm, the Narc director said the WarnerMedia-owned streaming service has irrevocably changed the movie exhibition landscape. He said the change was evident when Warner Bros. announced a third Wonder Woman sequel shortly after Wonder Woman 1984 debuted on HBO Max and in theaters.
“Do you think that’s accidental, that they didn’t do numbers that were astronomical, that suddenly they’re not paying 45 percent to an exhibitor, so that’s nearly half their profits they’re holding onto?” he said. “They’re not jetting Gal Gadot and Chris Pine and Patty Jenkins all over the globe to do all these various premieres, red carpets, with a traditional marketing model, which is hundreds of millions of dollars in its own right. You’re not doing any of that.”
Carnahan suggested that, instead of selling movie tickets, the company was pleased instead with gaining subscriptions to the streaming platform. “I think their subscriber-base quadrupled over one weekend when Wonder Woman 2 came out,” he said. “It’s not accidental that they green-lit that so quickly. I think that was absolutely by, ‘Wow, this thing made a lot of money.’”
He concluded: “I don’t think the genie’s going back in the bottle, not on that stuff.”
Carnahan’s latest movie Boss Level debuted on Hulu this weekend and stars Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, and Naomi Watts. The director said “there’s no question” that theaters will “come back” as the pandemic fades, but he acknowledged that the film distribution landscape has been changed forever by the past year:
It’s difficult to go out. It’s difficult in general, forget about the pandemic. Now, DiCaprio is going to be on Netflix. Everybody’s going on Netflix now. So, what are you going to do? I don’t know the day and date aren’t going to be the same for every movie. For those of you who want to see it in the theater, it’s out there. For those of you who want to see it at home, it’s available there, as well.
I still think people want the social interaction and the communal experience of going to a movie. So, I’ll give them that experience, when things are safe and the smoke clears. But, I don’t think that that should immediately once again negate or nullify the streamer. That’s, “Okay, you’re our second option now.” I think if anything, that that field is absolutely wide open and dead even.
While on the topic of the pandemic, Carnhan accused former president Donald Trump of hampering the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, saying that distribution “should be a lot further along.”
“I blame the former asshole administration for not really having it together,” he said. “We should not be sitting in this situation right now. We should be a lot further along. The vaccine should be a lot further along, in terms of distribution. It’s not.”
He added, “I’m not going to get political. I do that enough, but I’m hopeful, brother, but I’m also hopeful for change, some sort of paradigm shift, where we’re seeing it go in a different direction.”