It’s understood that the deal between Warner Bros. and Comcast-backed pay-TV operator Sky isn’t yet complete and exact terms are still being hammered out, but discussions are in advanced stages. While the blockbuster sequel starring Gal Gadot won’t appear in theaters and on the movie service day and date, the move signifies unprecedented flexibility on the part of the country’s exhibitors.
Sources indicate that the Wednesday, Dec. 16 theatrical release date for “Wonder Woman 1984” first mooted by Warners last week in its international release plan has now been confirmed with local exhibitors. Meanwhile, it’s believed that “Wonder Woman 1984” could drop on Sky as early as one month after the movie hits theaters, though this isn’t yet confirmed. The film could appear in various forms on Sky — for example, it may be rented via a standard transactional VOD deal through Sky Store, and then land on movie service Sky Cinema.
Sky Cinema, which is also offered as part of Sky SVOD service Now TV, is available in the U.K. and Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, though it’s unclear whether “Wonder Woman 1984” will be made available in all these countries.
The Sky deal is a clear sign of the times in the U.K. and it’s worth noting that exhibitors are keen for the arrangement to be an exception made in extraordinary circumstances rather than the rule going forward.
“What we’re doing on the basis of trying to help out the studios and our partners is to look at an emergency COVID window which is just the maximum amount of flexibility to get movies onto screens,” says a senior source close to U.K. discussions, who assures the “Wonder Woman 1984” scenario “isn’t setting up a precedent for the future, but acknowledging that we’re finding ways of working together.”
The theatrical window in the U.K. is roughly 16 weeks. Movies played in cinemas for an average of 109 days (just over 15 weeks) in 2019, according to the UK Cinema Association. Many releases get shorter windows, while some enjoy longer runs. Warners released Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” in the U.K. in late August, where the movie has played in cinemas over 13 weeks, grossing $23 million to date.
The first Patty Jenkins-directed “Wonder Woman” movie in 2017 grossed $28 million in the U.K. over 30 weeks, but the studio may be changing tack for the sequel due to the uncertainty around U.K. lockdowns going into the holiday season, as well as indefinitely shuttered cinema chains such as Cineworld, the country’s biggest operator. (Odeon and Vue, however, will reopen select locations where possible, with Vue opening doors from Dec. 11.)
A second national lockdown in England that ends Wednesday (Dec. 2) has undoubtedly complicated matters for the film’s roll out. England is now back to a three-tier system, and while cinemas can legally reopen in Tier 2 cities such as London and Liverpool, other major urban areas with a high concentration of cinemas, including Greater Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol, are in Tier 3 — the highest alert level — which means movie theaters there will have to remain closed. Wales is back in lockdown from Dec. 4 with a review expected on Dec. 17.
In the U.S., “Wonder Woman 1984” is hitting the big screen on Dec. 25 as planned and will also play on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max, which is only available in the U.S. for now. Overseas, the movie will begin a staggered rollout from Dec. 16.
Sky and Warners declined to comment on this story.
Rebecca Rubin contributed to this report.