‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Falls Short At The Box Office

By  //  December 24, 2020

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When the long list of films that were due out in 2020 was drawn up, “Wonder Woman 1984” was talked about as a potential highlight of what should have been a vintage year for cinema. People went crazy for both the original movie and its star Gil Gadot when it was released in 2017, and there was no reason to believe that there wouldn’t be similar excitement about its sequel.

The 1980s setting offered it a chance to be both nostalgic and stylish at the same time, and we were told that the plot would see the world’s favorite female superstar going head to head with a capitalist tyrant bent on world domination. It had all the elements necessary for great success.

In theory, what’s happened during 2020 should have made its job even easier. Movie after movie has been postponed or released directly to streaming because movie theaters have been closed, and so “Wonder Woman 1984” went from being one of the highlights of a crowded calendar to being one of the few remaining highlights on the calendar of any kind.

Despite that, it’s had a tepid reception at the box office. While it hasn’t been released in the United States of America yet (that’s a treat that’s being saved for Christmas Day), it’s been a disaster internationally, grossing only $38.5m across the world during its opening week.

The numbers should be looked at with an awareness that movie theaters are still closed in many parts of the world and so it was never likely to make the kind of stand-our figure that would usually be expected of a major Hollywood blockbuster, but even with expectations tempered, there’s still cause for concern at Warner Bros and for all the people involved in the movie.

China was expected to be a big market for “Wonder Woman 1984,” but it wasn’t the most popular movie there during its first few days. In fact, it grossed barely over half of “The Rescue,” which made $35m in China alone during the same period. China usually loves superhero movies even more than America does, so producers were hoping to make $80-90m there. That now looks like a vain hope.

The first question that DC Comics, Warner Bros, and fans of the film will be asking is “why,” and that might take time to work out. To understand that, perhaps we have t look at the film’s reviews. While critics have generally been kind to Gil Gadot, overall there’s been criticism of what’s been termed a ‘messy’ plot and a villain who’s really outgoing US President Donald Trump in a paper-thin disguise.

The character, named Max Lord, is a shady wheeler-and-dealer who cons his way to becoming President of the United States of America while simultaneously being a television personality. He even has Trump-like hair.

If the producers thought that putting a fictionalized version of Trump at the heart of their film would endear them to fans, they might just have got an unpleasant surprise – and possibly not for the reason they think.

Trump is less popular (to say the least) internationally than he is in the United States of America, but that doesn’t mean that international film audiences want to see him beaten up on movie screens. It’s more likely that they’re tired of seeing him in general.

They’re bored of the twenty-four-hour news coverage, and they want entertainment that distracts them from the many horrors of the past twelve months rather than pastiches that remind them of it. This might have been a misjudgment on the part of the writers.

If so, it doesn’t bode well for the movie’s American box office potential either. While it’s true that half of Americans despise the President, the other half adores him. Putting a character like this in a superhero movie will inevitably divide audiences and might persuade some people to give it a miss when they’d otherwise have paid money to see the film.

The only saving grace in all this is that “Wonder Woman 1984” doesn’t have to make a spectacular amount of money to break even. It was made for around $200m, which is modest by modern Hollywood movie standards.

If the film can scrape together $100m in the rest of the world and pull a further $100m in America, the companies behind it can probably live with that. There’ll never be a sequel, but at least they won’t have lost anything. If it falls short of that mark, everything will come down to the question of whether it’s possible to make the money back elsewhere.

Warner Bros has a few options for making money through the film away from movie theaters. It’s being released to premium streaming through Amazon Prime in mid-January, and it might start to pick up more money then, so the film could still turn a profit even if it ultimately disappoints further at the box office.

There’s also the question of tie-in products. When the last “Wonder Woman” was released to cinemas, it was accompanied by an official online slots game made by a company called Playtech. There’s been no sign of an online slots game based on the sequel so far, but that doesn’t mean one isn’t coming. It took a little over a year for the last game to reach online slots websites, but that didn’t stop it from making money when it eventually arrived.

The amount of money that UK Slot Games are capable of making would surprise most people. The right slot can make millions, and Warner Bros would welcome those millions after seeing these figures. If Playtech (or a company like them) hasn’t already had a phone call, they might be getting one shortly.

Maybe it’s nothing to do with the film or its plot, though. Perhaps, after what feels like decades of saturation, the world has finally become bored with superhero films. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that superheroes aren’t real, and nobody’s coming to save us when things turn dark.

That might be a gloomy note to close on, but it’s true. The world doesn’t believe in superheroes anymore, and that might lead to a brave new future for the movie industry.