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Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins urged Hollywood studios to commit to the big screen experience as they emerge from the pandemic — and received enthusiastic applause for the sentiment during a panel on Thursday at theater owners’ confab CinemaCon in Las Vegas.
“I don’t know why we are talking about taking [exclusive theatrical windows] away,” Jenkins said. “One studio should plant a flag and make a huge commitment to the theatrical experience and the filmmakers will go there.”
The director went on to describe the “heartbreaking” decision for Warner Bros. to release Wonder Woman 1984 day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max last December, admitting that at the time it was “the best choice of a bunch of very bad choices. …. It was a very, very difficult choice. It was such a dark time.” (Upon its December debut, Wonder Woman 1984 grossed $166 million worldwide amid the pandemic, while 2017’s Wonder Woman grossed $821 million.)
“I was happy to give it to the public,” Jenkins continued of the superhero sequel, noting that she recognized the streaming release could be “detrimental” to the experience. “I don’t think it plays the same on streaming. I did practical effects and shot it in Imax. It was painful.”
Jenkins received more applause as she asserted, “I’m not a fan of day-and-date and I hope to avoid it forever. … I make movies for the big screen experience.” The director suggested that talent should also be involved in those decisions.
Elsewhere, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi acknowledged that there will be a lot of “experimentation” during the pandemic including day-and-date releases with streaming services, but asserted that he’s mostly hearing support for the National Association of Theatre Owners’ position that “some form of a flexible exclusive theatrical window is good for the business.”
Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at Paramount, suggested that, at least at this stage of the recovery period, “the approach will be on a picture by picture basis. I don’t think you are going to see any slate-long decisions.”
“We need to be allies, not adversaries,” Aronson told exhibitors. “Going forward, I think the long-term solution is that exclusive theatrical [window]. … Finding the proper window, we may still be trying to figure that out. We’ll figure that out together.”
In other topics discussed during the panel, Aronson asserted that “consolidation is not good for our industry.” Using the Disney acquisition of Fox as an example, the executive said, “Fox took a lot of risks and made a lot of fantastic movies. If you take 20th Century Fox off the board, it’s one less place for filmmakers.”
“It’s not a good thing,” Aronson continued. “[Each studio] had its own identity.”
Rolando Rodriguez, president/CEO of Marcus Theaters, emphasized the importance of diversity of stories available to moviegoers. “We need more female leads, more female directors and producers, and we need diversity in the industry,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Ryan Faughnder moderated the discussion.
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