Warner Bros. Pictures botched the theatrical and streaming rollout of Wonder Woman 1984 in one of the worst ways possible.
I was very outspoken on Twitter upon learning that the Wonder Woman 1984 embargo would be lifting on December 15. Why? Because once again, the studio decided to screen their film for select press–including those press members participating in press junkets and receiving swag for doing so. In choosing who got to see the film first, the studio could afford to be very selective in choosing which critics saw the film first. A lot of marginalized film press didn’t get to see the film before the embargo lifted. Some were sent during the second wave of press screeners. Those viewing in the second wave were able to see the film during the weekend before release. The rest of us? We had to wait until December 22–the Tuesday before the domestic launch.
My initial Twitter thread:
Full transparency: this transgender film critic has not been offered a screener for #WonderWoman1984 #WW84. When we talk about the push for underrepresented film criticism, things like this is what I look for. Things like this make me want to quit writing about film. https://t.co/YWIW1eQb2n
— Danielle Solzman, MA in Media Communications (@DanielleSATM) December 15, 2020
I highly encourage you to take a look at the response to my tweet–be it responses or the quote tweets, which led to a lot of conversation in even more quote tweets. A lot of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ critics chimed offered commentary on the rollout.
By the time I watched the film on Tuesday, not only were a select number of press able to watch the film but those attending theatrical viewings in international markets saw the film before I did. While I enjoyed the film on first watch, I decided to watch again on Friday after learning that there may have been a scene after the credits. Upon second watch as my body was falling asleep as is usually the case on Friday afternoon, there was no post-credits scene. Only the mid-credits scene. But that’s another story.
By also releasing on streaming, everybody wanting to see the film will see it during opening weekend. The discourse will likely be a brief one. This is a downside of streaming releases. You’re not talking about a film a month or two later. People are going to talk about it then and there. I’ve seen Film Twitter talk for weeks on end about a film. Oh, yeah, the discussions come at a time when the general public still isn’t allowed to see a film. I think back to Mank–I still have a lot of thoughts on this film but the discourse came and went. The David Fincher film is only accessible to cinephiles. This isn’t the case with WW84. I do acknowledge that there are people that don’t like the film. This happens with every movie whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
When it comes to traffic, more often than not, those writing about the film first will get the most traffic. The initial critic roundups come when the first wave of reviews go online. To be fair, I’ve started covering films closer to release but this is because it makes zero sense to run a review a month before the general public can watch it. This is a personal choice and if it means losing traffic, so be it. I’ve also heard from people that are not a part of Film Twitter–most of them are just not comfortable going to theaters without getting vaccinated.
I’m not alone in my thoughts about Warner Bros. at the moment. Bleeding Cool‘s Kaitlyn Booth had a few Twitter threads–one on Friday night and one when the embargo lifted.
So I think #WarnerBros plan of carefully picking who got to see #WonderWoman1984 before the embargo dropped [a bunch of people who all seemed to love the movie hmm] only to withhold it from everyone else for a minimum of 5 days really blew up in their face. #WW84
— Kａiｔlyn Βоｏｔｈ☃️?❄? (@katiesmovies) December 26, 2020
Here is the first tweet in her thread from when the embargo lifted on December 15:
I will not have a #WonderWoman1984 review up today because @wbpictures and @hbomax have not offered me a screener. I know that I'm not alone here and smaller outlets, smaller than mine, run by queer people and POC are the one's not getting to see this movie before the embargo.
— Kａiｔlyn Βоｏｔｈ☃️?❄? (@katiesmovies) December 15, 2020
I have some major issues with Warner Bros. for some of the decisions they made this year. Tenet was up for Best Action Movie during the Critics Choice Super Awards. But unless you saw the film during its theatrical release, you were shit out of luck in viewing the film for voting. The studio didn’t send any awards screeners before or during voting. Instead, they sent screeners out on the day of the home video release. This doesn’t even take into account the horrible decision to announce day-and-date releases for their entire 2021 slate without consulting producers, filmmakers, and talent.
I do not want to boycott Warner Bros. I hope they listen to marginalized press and stop being so selective about who sees their films early. They already made horrible decisions (see previous paragraph). I can understand wanting to get films out there for audiences to watch but where the studio went wrong is not informing everyone involved. There are economics that go not just into making a film but during the theatrical and home video release. By opting for day and date, it hurts the theatrical window. Sure, I’m going for the safest way to watch a film but I feel for all the below-the-line crew that lose out on their earnings potential.
Here is how things stood at one point on December 16: 89% of 82 critics gave the film a positive review on Rotten Tomatoes.
— Rotten Tomatoes (@RottenTomatoes) December 16, 2020
And as things stand as of just before 11 PM CT on December 26: 65% positive of 284 reviews. Once a film dips under a certain percentage number, it is no longer Certified Fresh. During yesterday’s Kentucky-Louisville game on ESPN, the studio ran a Wonder Woman 1984 ad. Guess what? It listed the film as being Certified Fresh when in fact, the score already dropped.
What does this say? It says the studio is being selective in who sees their films early. This isn’t old news. Look at who are the first people to comment on social media. The same thing happened for films like Shazam! and Aquaman. It also happened for the first Wonder Woman film in 2017. The current practices need to change. I will continue to be outspoken for future films getting a day-and-date release. The selectivity in who gets to see a film early for review needs to stop.