'Wonder Woman 1984' to debut in theaters and on HBO Max

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a scene from “Wonder Woman 1984.” The film isn’t skipping theaters or moving to 2021, but it is altering course.

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ to debut in theaters, HBO Max

“Wonder Woman 1984” isn’t skipping theaters or moving to 2021, but it is altering course. The last big blockbuster holdout of 2020 is still opening in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day but it will also be made available to HBO Max subscribers free of charge for its first month, Warner Bros. said Wednesday.

The film will also debut in international theaters on Dec. 16.

“As we navigate these unprecedented times, we’ve had to be innovative in keeping our businesses moving forward while continuing to super-serve our fans,” said Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group in a statement.

After the first month for free on HBO Max, “Wonder Woman 1984” will play in theaters for an additional few weeks before being made available for rental on demand.

It is an unprecedented strategy for a film of its size, but a sign of the extraordinary measures that many Hollywood studios have had to resort to in the COVID 19-era. Most major films that had been set for 2020 have either delayed theatrical releases until 2021 or sent them to streaming platforms for a premium rental price, as the Walt Disney Co. did with “Mulan.”

Audiences have not been going back to the theaters in significant numbers since they began to reopen across the country in late August. Warner Bros. tested the waters early with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which was the first big movie to open in theaters after six months of being closed, but it didn’t do pre-pandemic numbers in the U.S., where theaters were still closed in major markets like Los Angeles and New York. Competitors took note. Most studios decided at that point to push their biggest films, from the James Bond film “No Time to Die” to “West Side Story” and “Black Widow,” to next year. Warner Bros. also sent its next big film, “The Witches” straight to HBO Max, which parent company Warner Media launched earlier this year.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is a major tentpole for Warner Bros. The first film made over $821 million globally in 2017 and this sequel which brings back director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot has been hotly anticipated.

Warner Media CEO Jason Killar said that they will be measuring the performance of the film in “an entirely new way.”

“A little over four million fans in the U.S. enjoyed the first Wonder Woman movie on its opening day in 2017. Is it possible for that to happen again this Christmas with Wonder Woman 1984 between theaters and HBO Max?” Killar wrote Wednesday. “We are so excited to find out, doing everything in our power to provide the power of choice to fans.”

Obama memoir off to hot start in sales

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” sold nearly 890,000 copies in the U.S. and Canada in its first 24 hours, putting it on track to be the best selling presidential memoir in modern history.

The first-day sales, a record for Penguin Random House, includes pre-orders, e-books and audio.

“We are thrilled with the first day sales,” said David Drake, publisher of the Penguin Random House imprint Crown. “They reflect the widespread excitement that readers have for President Obama’s highly anticipated and extraordinarily written book.”

The only book by a former White House resident to come close to the early pace of “A Promised Land” is the memoir by Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama, whose “Becoming” sold 725,000 copies in North America its first day and has topped 10 million worldwide since its release in 2018. “Becoming” is still so in demand that Crown, which publishes both Obamas and reportedly paid around $60 million for their books, has yet to release a paperback.

As of midday Wednesday, “A Promised Land” was No. 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble, said that the superstore chain easily sold more than 50,000 copies its first day and hoped to reach half a million within 10 days.

“So far it has been neck and neck with Michelle Obama’s book,” he said.

By comparison, Bill Clinton’s “My Life” sold around 400,000 copies in North America its first day and George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” around 220,000, with sales for each memoir currently between 3.5 and 4 million copies. The fastest selling book in memory remains J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final Harry Potter novel, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which came out in 2007 and sold more than 8 million copies within 24 hours.

Obama’s 768-page memoir, which came out Tuesday and has a list price of $45, had unusually risky timing for a book of such importance to the author, to readers and to the publishing industry. It came out just two weeks after Election Day and could have been overshadowed had the race still been in doubt or perhaps unwanted by distressed Obama fans if President Donald Trump had defeated Democratic nominee Joe Biden. But Biden won and his victory likely renews interest in an era when he was Obama’s trusted and popular vice president.

Obama himself acknowledges that he didn’t intend for the book, the first of two planned volumes, to arrive so close to a presidential election or to take nearly four years after he left the White House — months longer than for “My Life” and two years longer than “Decision Points.” In the introduction to “A Promised Land,” dated August 2020, Obama writes that “the book kept growing in length and scope” as he found he needed more words than expected to capture a given moment — a bind many authors well understand. He was also working under conditions he “didn’t fully anticipate,” from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matters protests, to, “most troubling of all,” how the country’s “democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis.”

Because of the pandemic, Obama will not go on the all-star arena tour Michelle Obama had for “Becoming.” But he benefits from the attention of any memoir by a former president and by the special attention for Obama, who has the rare stature among politicians of writing his own books and for attracting as much or more attention for how he tells a story than for the story itself. Obama has already written two acclaimed, million-selling works, “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope, which came out in 2006. His new book covers some of the same time period as his previous ones, while continuing his story through the first 2 1/2 ears of his presidency and the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden by the Navy SEALS.