If you love the cinema, then today is W-Day — a pivotal point in history that will determine whether it stays a mainstream activity or becomes some sort of niche pastime, like ten pin bowling.
Boxing Day sees the release of Wonder Woman 1984, the first true blockbuster movie since COVID-19 choked the life out of cinema.
But it’s not just coming out at the movies.
Warner Bros has announced that WW1984, indeed all its major releases in 2021, will simultaneously be available on its streaming service HBO Max.
HBO Max isn’t available here but production houses don’t make decisions based on the Australian box office. All they care about is the US take.
With barely a third of America’s cinemas still open thanks to COVID, there is talk that if WW 1984 gets $US5m at the box office on opening weekend, that will be a good result.
But the real figure to care about is the number of new subscriptions to HBO Max. If that leaps up, then Warner Bros will conclude it is on to a good thing.
Don’t forget, the production houses only get a fraction of the cinema box office. They get all of the cash from their subscription service. And it keeps rolling over, every month.
So if everyone else sees it working for Disney (which has already decided to put its focus on the Disney+ streaming service) and now Warner Bros … well, that could be good night cinema.
Sure, you can still go and see movies there but, if you are being forced to pay for all these new streaming services, what’s the point? Stay home and see the show there. You might as well get value for your money, right?
Except cinemas will wither and die. Yes, a few will remain, where you can see independent movies that have no streaming deal, or diehard fans can check out a blockbuster on a proper screen. But going to the movies will become an eccentricity.
I can see a future reaction when you announce at a friend’s barbecue that you recently went to the cinema.
“Oh mate, really? Don’t they make you wear those strange shoes?”
“No you idiot, that’s ten pin bowling. Cinema is where you sit in this big room with strangers in the dark and watch a movie that way.”
“Oh … yeah. Do people still do that? Anyway, have a home brand sausage.”
“What happened to the steak?”
“Sorry mate, paying too many streaming subscriptions this month for steak.”
Sure, that may not happen. HBO Max might only get a few new subscriptions and Americans might flock back to cinemas to see WW 1984.
But I fear that they won’t be rushing back to cinemas, not with COVID-19 ravaging the cities.
So it all comes down to how many will sign up for another streaming service instead. I guess we’ll know in a week or two.
One of the things I love about cinema is that moment when the auditorium goes black, the curtains roll back, everyone goes silent and the show begins.
Will it happen again? Or will the lights go back up and someone announce the show has been cancelled?