Within the past year, the lines have started to blur in terms of what counts as a theatrical release vs. a streaming movie. Over the Christmas holiday, Warner Bros made Wonder Woman 1984 simultaneously both, resulting in pretty dismal theatrical earnings by normal standards and spiked subscriptions for HBO Max. So what does that mean? Are more blockbusters going to follow this model? Warner Bros is opting to release all 17 of the movies in its 2021 slate in this fashion. But don’t expect every big-budget movies to fall in line and follow in its footsteps, especially Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, which sees Tom Cruise stepping back into the cockpit.
Universal is still sticking to its relationship with movie theaters, which allows the studio to help exhibitors and then put out their releases on demand just 2.5 weeks later. How Disney will proceed is not clear, except in terms of Raya and the Last Dragon, which will follow a premium streaming price tied to a theatrical date this March. And Paramount is holding on to its big summer feature, Top Gun: Maverick – reportedly the studio “refused” to sell to Netflix and Apple based on the action film’s “perceived box-office prospects.”
A source told the Wall Street Journal that both streaming services inquired about distributing the film for the studio instead of the Top Gun sequel possibly making the decision to delay its release again, but Paramount Pictures is determined to bring the movie to theaters. The sequel starring Tom Cruise cost over $150 million to produce and under circumstances pre-COVID, it has the makings of being a billion dollar hit.
Under the pandemic, where two-thirds of U.S. theaters are still closed, big movies have struggled to make any money. After a month in theaters, Wonder Woman 1984 has only made $142.5 million, with only $35 million coming from the domestic market. By comparison, 2017’s Wonder Woman made $822 million globally, with about half of its earnings coming from domestic dollars. Tenet, last summer’s only blockbuster, made $363 million worldwide against a production budget of over $200 million.
As things stand, studios are starting to pull apart the stacked 2021 release schedule again, with MGM recently purshing James Bond movie No Time To Die away from its spring date and Sony moving down Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Uncharted, Cinderella and Peter Rabbit 2 to later in the year. The situation is still tough to predict as the COVID-19 vaccination rollout remains behind schedule.
Top Gun: Maverick is a major event film that will follow a 35-year-old classic that is beloved by movie fans. The action movie features some incredible spectacle, including audiences getting to enter the cockpit of a fighter jet with Tom Cruise. The Paramount film is currently still set for a July 2, 2021 theatrical date. What do you think? Should Top Gun 2 think about sending the film to streaming or hold out? Vote in the poll below.