Warner Bros. is using Wonder Woman 1984 to push HBO Max, but what happens in countries where the streaming service (or an equivalent partner) simply isn’t an option? Early rentals, apparently. Deadline and Variety have confirmed WW84 will be available for 48-hour digital rentals in the UK and Ireland on January 13th, just under a month after the superhero movie’s December 16th theatrical debut in the country. Notably, the movie will still be in theaters past that date — the ones that are still open during the COVID-19 pandemic, anyway.
The studio didn’t say which services would carry Wonder Woman 1984, although it should be available through multiple outlets. The possible major options include Amazon Prime Video, Apple’s TV app, Google Play and UK-specific outlets like BT TV and TalkTalk TV. It’s also uncertain if other movies will follow this route, although it’s possible when Warner Bros. said all its 2021 movies would debut on HBO Max in the US.
Deadline understood that Warner Bros. had reached a deal with UK theater chains to shorten the theatrical window from its usual 16 weeks to just four. It’s not a permanent deal and would simply reflect the realities of the pandemic. Only 150 out of the UK’s movie theaters are both open and playing WW84, and that’s unlikely to get much better in the next few months.
It’s not a completely unexpected move when other movie giants have moved titles to streaming services or rentals during the pandemic. Still, it’s significant that Warner Bros. is making one of its blockbusters available to rent so quickly. This also underscores the limitations of WarnerMedia’s big bet on HBO Max. When a service is only available in one country, any attempt to base a strategy around it is bound to lead to some awkward compromises in other parts of the world.