Wonder Woman 1984 has gone through a lot of release dates. The film was first announced as a Christmas 2019 release, then moved up slightly to November 2019, before then getting bumped back to June of 2020. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic last spring then spurred a series of additional delays; first to August, then to October, and then finally to Christmas of 2020. Finally, this week, Warner Bros. announced there would be no additional delays; rather than wait until the pandemic was over, they would release Wonder Woman 1984 simultaneously in theaters and on their HBO Max streaming service.

The move is certainly a massive win for HBO Max, a fledging service looking for major titles to help it lure customers away from rivals like Netflix and Disney+. But in the short term, it almost certainly means a large financial loss for Warner Bros, as Wonder Woman 1984 was expected to make hundreds of millions of dollars in theaters, and now will earn significantly less. If Warner Bros. only cared about those box-office figures, they could have delayed the movie again.

The reason they ultimately didn’t, according to Variety, had to do with the state of the film itself. Although Wonder Woman 1984 was coming out in 2020, it was actually shot way back in the summer and fall of 2018. In the trade’s words, there was only so long Warner Bros. felt they could wait as a result:

There was a sense that sequel would get stale if they waited until summer or next fall — four years after “Wonder Woman” premiered. Even with several promising vaccines, there’s no guarantee that the world will return to some kind of normal in a matter of months.

There is another reality looming on the horizon that none of the studios have confronted yet: While they have kept delaying all the movies they were expecting to release in 2020, they have continued to produce the movies they were planning to screen in 2021 and beyond. Warner Bros. alone has Godzilla vs. KongIn the Heights, a new ConjuringSpace Jam 2The Suicide SquadDuneElvis, and The Matrix 4 all in the next 12 months. And that’s just one studio; every single company has a backlog like that. Whenever theaters reopen at full strength, there’s going to be an enormous glut of blockbusters — unless some of these movies begin to seek alternate distribution routes.

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