When it was announced that WarnerMedia was going to release every Warner Bros. 2021 film on HBO Max the same day as in theaters, the reactions were immediate and passionate. Some executives applauded the audacity of WarnerMedia to make such a bold move. While others, mostly filmmakers and actors, were not so happy with the news. Well, somewhere in the middle you can probably find filmmakers Aaron Sorkin and Patty Jenkins.
Speaking with Variety, both Sorkin and Jenkins spoke about the news regarding WB films in 2021. This directly affects Jenkins, whose “Wonder Woman 1984” is the first feature to test this new paradigm. For Sorkin, the fear isn’t about money so much as it is the future of the industry, as he (like many film fans) worry about the death of the theatrical experience.
“We’re all scared that everything’s going to change now,” Sorkin said. “That movie theaters are basically going to become, like, art houses, and that the films that you and I make will only be seen on streaming services.”
He added, “I don’t think that that’s going to happen. I think that for 4,000 years, nothing has replaced the experience of being part of an audience. That shared experience — being in a theater when the lights go down, everyone laughing at the same time, gasping at the same time, being silent at the same time, and having the final moment of the film reverberate at the same time.”
Jenkins, on the other hand, thinks the move by WarnerMedia puts the studio on one side of the fence, with an opportunity for other studios to go on the opposite side. This sort of competition might make it easier for filmmakers to choose partners in the long run.
“When every single studio in town starts chasing the exact same thing, you’re like, ‘Why doesn’t someone differentiate themselves?’” Jenkins said. “In this case, I think what’s going to happen is … some studio is going to be smart enough to be an outlier, and all the great filmmakers in town are going to go there, and the theaters are going to favor their movies. Because right now, if there are studios that announce that [releasing day-and-date on streaming] is what they’re going to start doing, every filmmaker’s going to head to the studio that promises they’re not going to.”
“I agree with Chris. I don’t think it’s great for the future of filmmaking when Covid has passed,” Jenkins said. “However, our film was different. It was presented in a very different way, which is that we are at the height of the pandemic right now and people are really suffering and struggling and the choices are to sit on our film and wait or to release it.”
She added, “In this case, at this moment in time only, I really was excited about this idea. The number one reason I’m a filmmaker is to try to share experiences with mankind and have the communal moment of sharing something. Yes, I loved it when it happens in theaters, but this year I’m so touched and moved that it’s going to happen in people’s homes when they can’t go places and still happen in theaters where they can. There’s something sort of wonderful about just saying now is the time to release the movie, regardless of all of those other things. I’m with Chris, I’m going to go right back to being a partner to the theatrical business. That’s what I make films for.”
So, Aaron Sorkin knows this is going to hurt theaters but he thinks they will ultimately survive. Jenkins (who reportedly got a healthy paycheck from WB after the ‘WW84’ streaming decision) also is concerned about theaters but thinks, for her film at least, it makes sense. Obviously, we’ll have to see how “Wonder Woman 1984” is received in theaters and on HBO Max to find out if this decision is genius or incredibly stupid. Only time will tell.