box office

Wonder Woman 1984 Earns Highest Box-Office Opening of the Pandemic Era

Despite middling reviews, Patty Jenkins’s superhero sequel hauled in $16.7 million at North American movie theaters. Photo: Clay Enos/Warner Bros.

Wonder Woman 1984 just lassoed the biggest opening of the face-mask era. Hauling in an estimated $16.7 million in its North American debut over Christmas weekend, the $200 million superhero thriller posted the most robust box-office returns of any new release since the onset of the pandemic.

The critically divisive, oft-rescheduled sequel to director Patty Jenkins’s $821.8 million–grossing Wonder Woman (2017) opened internationally on December 16 and has taken in a cumulative $85 million to date. But the strength of its draw in 2,150 theaters in the U.S. and Canada beginning on December 25 took Hollywood by surprise. Debuting simultaneously on HBO Max as part of a history-making — and ostensibly temporary — rollup of the theatrical window announced by its studio distributor Warner Bros. earlier this month, Wonder Woman 1984 demonstrated that a significant domestic audience will still turn up at the multiplex for a tentpole title even if it is available for streaming on demand, and even with nearly 60 percent of the country’s theaters still shuttered due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

According to estimates provided by Warner Bros. — which flouted long-held industry convention by withholding daily ticket-sales figures and only releasing WW84’s box-office tallies on Sunday — the sequel’s three-day domestic take handily eclipsed those of 2020’s other big openers: The Croods: A New Age ($9.7 million) and Tenet ($9.3 million). (For reference, Croods 2 currently boasts a 76 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, and Tenet is holding at 70 percent. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman 1984 has dropped in the days since its review embargo lifted to 65 percent.)

Moreover, WarnerMedia, the corporate parent of both Warner Bros. and HBO Max, reported that the Gal Gadot–led DC Extended Universe entry was viewed by “nearly half” of the streaming platform’s retail subscribers on Christmas Day. HBO Max’s total viewing hours reportedly tripled in comparison to a typical, non–Diana Prince–driven day the previous month — a promising metric for the fledgling OTT service. “Wonder Woman 1984 broke records and exceeded our expectations across all of our key viewing and subscriber metrics in its first 24 hours on the service, and the interest and momentum we’re seeing indicates this will likely continue well beyond the weekend,” WarnerMedia direct-to-consumer chief Andy Forssell said in a statement.

While the first Wonder Woman took in $103 million over its domestic debut, and WW84’s $16.7 million three-day haul would be considered a yuletide catastrophe under non-coronavirus circumstances, Warner Bros. execs are likely greeting that performance with virtual fist bumps on Zoom. In recent weeks, the embattled Burbank studio has incurred the wrath of Hollywood — in particular, its own top-tier filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve — for announcing an intent to release the entirety of its 2021 film slate simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max via a controversial “hybrid model” rollout.

But to further underscore the momentousness of Wonder Woman 1984’s asterisk-riddled, expectations-adjusted-for-pandemic Christmas-weekend box-office win, the studio made what can fairly be considered the ultimate show of movie-biz faith. It green-lit a threequel reuniting Gadot and Jenkins — hailing them as “real-life Wonder Women.”

WW1984 Earns Highest Box-Office Opening of the Pandemic Era